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Twitter to dispel 5G coronavirus conspiracies with UK government resources

Following the burning of 5G masts in the UK, the government is partnering with Twitter to stem the flow of misinformation.

Twitter faces unique challenges in tackling the spread of 5G conspiracies.

James Martin/CNET
For the most up-to-date news and information about the coronavirus pandemic, visit the WHO and CDC websites.

Twitter has partnered with the British government to take its fight against conspiracy theories linking coronavirus and 5G to the next level.

The social media giant will prompt users who search for 5G on its platform to visit a government webpage featuring credible, factual and verified information about 5G, it announced on Wednesday. This follows a pledge by the company in April to crack down on the spread of 5G-related misinformation.

Information originating in Russia falsely linking COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, to the global 5G rollout started circulating online in January before finding its way into the mainstream. Over the past month, the UK has seen attacks on 5G masts and telecoms engineers, with multiple incidents of arson reported to the police by all the country's major phone networks.

All social networks have been hit hard with misinformation during the coronavirus outbreak, but Twitter has been forced to deal with the additional problem of high-profile, verified accounts circulating conspiracy theories. The company told a UK parliamentary committee hearing last week that it would take action against these accounts. Meanwhile, the government has been working with Twitter and other companies to minimize the harm caused by the spread of such misinformation.

"We have set up a new counter disinformation unit and are working with the social media platforms to make sure the public has access to reliable information during the coronavirus crisis and to give us a much better picture of where disinformation is spreading," said UK Digital Secretary Oliver Dowden in a statement.

"Our partnerships throughout this pandemic have allowed us to take proactive steps in bringing people the information most relevant and useful for them and we're happy to add this update today, in collaboration with DCMS in the UK," added Twitter's UK head of government, public policy and philanthropy, Katy Minshall.

The search prompt will remain UK-only for now, but the company said it will continue to assess the situation as the global conversation evolves.

See also: How to see quoted replies and retweets on Twitter

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