This article originally appeared on VICE US.
Anti-5G protesters have attacked cell tower sites in Holland, New Zealand, and Ireland as conspiracy theories linking the next-generation communication technology to the coronavirus pandemic continue to spread online and in the media.
The attacks on cell phone towers, which began in the U.K. last week, are undermining critical communication networks at a time when they're needed more than ever to deal with the pandemic.
In the Netherlands on Monday night, two more 5G cell phone towers were set on fire, bringing the total number of attacks since Friday to nine.
“The availability of a reliable digital infrastructure is essential. The connections are desperately needed for hospitals and care homes… and then there are those who deliberately set radio masts on fire. Incomprehensible and unacceptable,” Rob Bongelaar, director of The Monet Foundation, an association that oversees the placement of cell towers, told Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf.
Bongelaar also revealed that "Fuck 5G” was sprayed on the transmission box at one of the attack sites. A similar phrase can be heard in a video posted by people who set fire to sites in the U.K. last week.
There's been a strong anti-5G protest movement in Holland for some time, and the current wave of conspiracy theories linking the technology to the spread of coronavirus has been traced back to an article published on a regional Dutch website that cited a doctor making the connection.
In Ireland, protesters set two cell phone tower sites in the northwest of the country on fire on Sunday. While the sites were originally reported as 5G towers, a spokesperson for the company that owns them, Eir, has since confirmed they were actually 4G towers.
Work was recently done at both sites to provide extra capacity to a local hospital during the coronavirus pandemic.
In New Zealand, it appears anti-5G protesters also vandalized a 4G site by mistake.
A 4G tower on private farmland at Waiharara, built as part of the Rural Broadband Initiative, was damaged in an arson attack in late March.
Separately, a video posted to Facebook this week showed a man in Manurewa, a suburb of Auckland, pouring fuel over the exposed cables of an under-construction cell phone tower.
Another man in the video can be heard saying "Fuck 5G" and "Fuck the New World Order" as the two drive away from the scene. The video has since been removed, and police believe it's linked to a report of a fire in the area on April 5.
The spike in incidents across the globe follows attacks on at least 20 cell phone towers in the U.K. last week.
In response to criticism from politicians and advocacy groups, Facebook said it will take more aggressive action against the groups spreading the conspiracy theories. It has already banned one of the U.K.’s biggest groups, Stop5GUK, which had tens of thousands of active members.
But positive efforts like these continue to be undermined as celebrities like John Cusack, Woody Harrelson, and rapper MIA continue to promote the possibility of a link between 5G and coronavirus despite all the scientific evidence ruling out any connection.
"What I don't accept is mainstream media immediately slapping that down as not true when they don't know it's not true," Eamon Holmes, host of the U.K.’s popular "This Morning" show said Monday. “It's very easy to say it is not true because it suits the state narrative.”
Holmes on Tuesday said his comments had been misinterpreted: He said there was no scientific link between coronavirus and 5G, but he added that it was OK for people to look for answers about where the coronavirus originated.
Cover: The first 5G Brandenburger transmission tower stands at the edge of Oranienburger Stra'e, Germany. Vodafone put the transmitter into operation as part of a nationwide 5G trial operation with 80 masts. 17 October 2019. (Soeren Stache/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images)