If you’re scared of 5G giving you COVID-19 or otherwise polluting your precious bodily fluids, then some companies on Amazon would love to sell you a cage for your router. According to sellers, the metal cages block 5G. According to reviews, they’re destroying people’s Wi-Fi signal, which makes sense. The metal boxes are just Faraday cages marketed to people who believe in baseless conspiracy theories about 5G.
The sellers claim the metal cages will “block up to 95% EMF RF waves” and allow you to browse the internet while blocking 5G signals. According to reviews, the cages work and absolutely destroy Wi-Fi signal strength.
“I'm pleased with this wi-fi router shield. It is helping to curb my home of the ‘blue smog’ [dirty electricity] ~ which includes HARMFUL RF radiation,” one review said. Blue smog, or dirty electricity, is a term conspiracy theorists use to refer to what they believe is the harmful byproduct of 5G and other wireless signals. The theory is that people who are hypersensitive to such signals experience negative health effects when 5G waves hit their body. It’s been repeatedly debunked.
“Using it for 2G because we turned off the 5G WiFi on the Spectrum website,” another review said. “In terms of blocking EMF/RF radiation it's exactly what I need. People in this house noticed the detrimental effects of the router without this shield. With the shield we notice 0 effects.”
“Just installed today. No problems with the WiFI so far, the WiFI router is in my room and every day and night I'd get headaches,” said another. “I began to wonder if maybe it's the radiation since I work online and my desk is right next to the router. I really hope this helps my brain fog.”
But not everyone is pleased with the Faraday cage. “The box does work at keeping radiation in but also Wi-Fi will not work unless you're in the same room as the router! It decreases the signal by 90%!! We really wanted to like it but it was impossible to use our phones in any other room of the house,” one negative review said.
If the metal cage is reducing the Wi-Fi strength from the router, it’s working as designed. “It’s just a Faraday Cage, there’s no way to say WFi go out, bad RF stay in,” Chris Hendrie, owner of Blackstar Group, a network infrastructure and security company whose clients include Blizzard and Activision, told Motherboard in a Twitter DM. “There’s no good and bad RF, it just is. If you put a metal box around your router, your Wi-Fi is going to suck. Using that bad/ good RF logic, you should get rid of your microwave, any UV cleaners you have, your cell phone, etc.”
According to Phillip Broughton, a health physicist and laser safety officer, fears of 5G are just the latest iteration of a long running paranoia. “This has happened for the rollout of every new band in the microwave spectrum,” Broughton told Motherboard on the phone. “This exact reaction is copy paste from the rollout of 4G. If you look at older news stories, it’s frightening how similar the language is. And that language looks very similar to the first sale of microwaves and the electrification of homes.”
Broughton said that both fear and wonder came with the advent of electricity and wireless technology. “The fear, at every stage of implementation, of invisible things has led to a spike of anxiety. Am I polluting myself? Am I damaging myself? And there’s the counter group, which says ‘this is the thing we’ve finally been waiting for. Now we will all become Superman.’”
The marketing around 5G has made it sound like it will solve all the world’s problems. Companies invested in promoting 5G frequently call it a “revolution.” But 5G has a lot of problems and, according to Broughton, those problems help make it the center of conspiracy theories.
5G provides a stronger signal, but that strength comes at a cost. 5G’s stronger signal travels along a much shorter wavelength than previous wireless signals, and that means it can’t go very far. “You already have ubiquitous signals everywhere, what you don’t have is ubiquitous transmitters that you see everywhere,” he said. “Because with 4G, I can put two transmitters per floor and cover a whole office. To do that with 5G, you have to have one of these transmitters every 12 feet. There’s a sense of intrusion for people who are noticing the new repeaters everywhere.”
That sense of intrusion leads to fear, which leads to conspiracy theories, which leads to people selling Faraday cages for Wi-Fi routers on Amazon. The 5G conspiracies are bullshit, but they still have power even if it’s just the power to part people from their money. “Just because it’s bullshit doesn’t mean it doesn’t affect the world,” Broughton said.
Neither Amazon nor a Faraday Cage seller immediately returned our request for comment.