Study sounds alarm on 5G fake news, EU needs to promote benefits

An advertising board shows a 5G logo at the International Airport in Zaventem, Belgium May 4, 2020. Picture taken May 4, 2020. REUTERS/Yves Herman

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - European Union leaders need to tackle urgently disinformation on 5G technology, which is central to the bloc’s economic recovery from COVID-19 and its plans to catch up with the United States and China, a study by telecoms lobby group ETNO showed.

Conspiracy theories that tie the wireless technology to the spread of the novel coronavirus have seen mobile phone masts torched in 10 European countries and assaults on scores of maintenance workers in recent months.

For the 27-country EU, however, 5G which promises to enable everything from self-driving cars to remote surgery and more automated manufacturing is seen as the linchpin of its economic recovery and technology autonomy.

A study by consultant IPSOS, commissioned by telecoms lobbying groups ETNO and seen by Reuters, underlines the battle ahead for EU governments.

“While the majority of Europeans is positive towards 5G, 10% of those interviewed hold a negative view on this technology. IPSOS also tested some 5G myths and found that while a small minority believes in them, a substantial amount of Europeans isn’t sure that they are false either,” ETNO said.

The study for example found that one in two of the respondents was not sure whether 5G has a negative impact on the environment or whether 5G radiation is harmless for bees.

EU governments must step up their support for 5G, said ETNO Director General Lise Fuhr.

“The study shows a clear need to further argue for the advantages of 5G beyond simply ‘faster and better’ connectivity,” said IPSOS country manager Gerd Callewaert.

The study, carried out in August, covered 7,350 people in 23 EU countries including France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom.

Reporting by Foo Yun Chee; editing by Barbara Lewis