Telecom industry body COAI has approached the information technology ministry for removal of fake and misleading messages from social media platforms like Facebook, Whatsapp and Twitter linking spread of COVID-19 to 5G technology.
The Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), whose members include Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea, said the claims linking 5G with coronavirus are baseless as 5G networks have not yet been installed in the country and even 5G trials are yet to be started by the telecom operators.
In a letter dated May 15 to MeitY additional secretary Rajendra Kumar, COAI director general S P Kochhar said: "To safeguard the national interest, we request your good office to kindly instruct all the social media platforms such as Facebook, Watsapp, Twitter, etc, to remove all such posts and misleading campaigns from their platforms on an urgent basis."
People have been sharing audio and video messages on social media platforms in which 5G towers are being blamed for rise in casualties across the country even though none of the companies have installed 5G technology anywhere in India.
Video messages show that people convinced with the claim want to bring down mobile towers.
"We would hereby like to highlight that these types of rumours have spread over the past two weeks, mainly in semi-urban and rural areas.
"There has been a rise in such misinformation mainly in Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Punjab.
"We are concerned that this misleading and false claim / information might spread to other parts of the country as well," Kochhar said.
The Department of Telecommunications has also denied the claim of linking the COVID-19 pandemic to the 5G technology as false, and said it has no scientific basis.
"Moreover, it is informed that the testing of the 5G network has not yet started anywhere in India.
"Hence, the claim that 5G trials or networks are causing coronavirus in India is baseless and false," the DoT had said.
International bodies like the World Health Organization and International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection have also rejected claims of 5G having any ill effect on the health of people.
COAI said spreading myth around telecom services is against the national interest and may significantly impact the telecom operations.
The impact on the connectivity will deprive the public or government authorities from getting uninterrupted telecom services at this crucial juncture when telecom and internet is essential for enabling work from home and various initiatives of the government including the vaccination, it said.
Photograph: Fabian Bimmer/Reuters