GSMA's EMF Forum debates strategies to counter swirling misinformation about the dangers of 5G radiation
- Refute all false claims head-on as soon as they appear to prevent them gaining currency
- Separate myth from reality with empiric evidence from independent scientists
- Stress that the World Health Organisation, the EC and public health agencies have shown there is no link between Covid-19 and 5G
- Both misinformation and disinformation are dangerous and must be countered as quickly as possible
When in doubt, debunk, as quickly, loudly and often as possible
Professor Lewandowsky is the co-author of the "Debunking 2020 Handbook" and it is well worth reading as a reasoned and detailed methodology via which to respond to misinformation and fake news, probably the most dangerous and insidious of which, presently, is the widely circulating "rumour as fact" that there is a link between the transmission of Covid-19 and the deployment of 5G technology.
The Handbook defines false information as that which is spread by mistake or with intent to mislead. When the intent is to mislead it becomes disinformation. Both variants have the potential to harm individuals and society. What's more, misinformation, like chewing gum on the sole of a shoe.can be very sticky. Fact-checking and refutation based on countervailing empiric evidence can help and sometimes seemingly even completely demolish false news in the mind of an individual or group of people, but research has shown that very often the misinformation continues to influence them even after they have accepted a correction as fact. This is the "continued influence effect".
The Handbook adds that as misinformation is so sticky the best way to beat it is to pre-empt it by demonstrating and explaining the manipulation strategy underlying the fake news. This technique is called "inoculation" and its intent is to make recipients increasingly immune to misinformation and disinformation. It's a good idea but hard to employ in practice because inoculation is predicated on advance knowledge of misinformation techniques being deployed at any time and the refutation reality is best injected is best administered before exposure to misinformation.
If pre-emption is cannot be effective, another solution is debunk, loudly, often and with highly detailed refutations. That requires clear explanation of why the fake news is fake and a demonstration of what the truth actually is. So, those charged with countering the misinformation and downright fabrications being heaped on and around 5G need to follow a four step approach: start with the facts, warn about the myth, explain why the myth is false and its inherent fallacy, and, fourthly, reinforce the fact or facts as often a possible.
It is also to be be hoped that as 5G becomes commonplace and people get used to it and begin to understand and appreciate the many benefits and innovations it will reduce the amount misinformation, disinformation and scaremongering and perhaps even bring it to almost a full stop.
Stay up to date with the latest industry developments: sign up to receive TelecomTV's top news and videos plus exclusive subscriber-only content direct to your inbox – including our daily news briefing and weekly wrap.