Meet the ‘anti-vaxxers’ of tech fighting Telstra, Optus 5G rollouts
August 30, 2019
Mercy Wolf is worried about a lot of things. But at the moment, the rollout of 5G mobile networks by Telstra and Optus is near the top of the list.
“It’s happening really fast … it seems like all the governments of the world have done the same thing in changing legislation to enable telcos to roll this out, without any obstruction from local or state governments, and that’s happening all over the world,” Wolf, a 57 year old from Rose Bay in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs, said. “You realise that there’s something very strange going on.”
The part-time Uber driver and Julian Assange activist, who describes herself as a “truth-seeker” is part of a growing group of Australians who have health and privacy concerns about the next generation of high-speed mobile technology.
But her views on 5G are not supported by mainstream science and are regularly rebutted by local institutions like the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency.
The small, but vocal anti-5G movement is becoming a headache for Telstra and Optus as they move to rollout their new networks, and has prompted the Communications Department and at least one federal government agency to issue soothing statements to alleviate concerns.
Within the tech industry, people like Wolf are considered the “anti-vaxxers” of the telco world. But like the anti-vaxxer movement, interest in the perceived dangers of 5G is growing. Wolf has found like-minded people on Facebook where she is currently an administrator of a Sydney group against 5G that has several hundred members.
“This is a grassroots movement of mostly ordinary people and especially mothers, who are genuinely worried about the health and future of their children.” She links the 5G towers to possible side effects such as anxiety, depression and DNA damage, and also warns it will be a “full surveillance system”.
“There are scientists predicting that if this is rolled out everyone will be infertile within five generations.”
A string of local groups have recently emerged on the social media platform including the Stop 5G Northern Beaches group with 1700 members and the Stop 5G Australia page with 3400 “likes”.
“Out of nowhere all of these groups started suddenly bubbling up. It happened really quickly … [within] a month,” she said. The majority of these groups started around April.
For Wolf, it’s a sign the movement is starting to get traction and that months of rallies, petitions, emails and seeking support online are beginning to pay off.
These views on 5G are regularly rebutted by local institutions like the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency.
Wolf claims there are thousands of studies and peer-reviewed articles globally that back up her concerns and argues the current standards that telcos adhere to are outdated.
“We have seen an increase in engagement from people concerned about the safety of 5G as well as an increase in inaccurate information circulating,” a spokeswoman for ARPANSA said in a statement.
“We are not aware of the origin of all campaigns, but there appear to be campaigns both within Australia and internationally.”
A petition started in May on Change.org by another anti-5G campaigner, which has since been signed by 56,000 people, criticises ARPANSA as “corrupt and … unfit to do their job”.
The government agency issued a media release on June 3 warning about “misinformation circulating throughout the community about the possible impacts of Australia’s planned roll-out of the 5G mobile network”.
“Contrary to some claims, there are no established health effects from the radio waves that the 5G network uses,” the release said.
“We urge you to be cautious of claims from anti-5G campaigns. These campaigns are generating unfounded fear and concern within the community. We have seen increasing misinformation about health effects, our role, and 5G or radio waves generally.”
Ms Wolf does not trust the local agency, pointing to a disclaimer on its website that the information is not intended to be used as medical advice, and prefers to get her information from alternative sources rather than mainstream media.
One documentary that is regularly shared in anti-5G Facebook groups is former rock musician Sacha Stone’s 5G Apocalypse – The Extinction Event. The more than one-hour long video, that has been watched over 1 million times on YouTube, warns in the first few minutes that “this technology cooked your eyes like eggs in World War 2”.
In May The New York Times warned Russian-backed news organisation RT America – seen by US authorities as the mouthpiece of the Kremlin – was behind a significant amount of content stoking fears about the dangers of 5G. The Times added that much of the research cited by the news agency was “not in reputable science journals but little-known reports, publications and self-published tracts, at times with copious notes of dubious significance”.
Regardless of the veracity of the concerns, for telcos like Telstra, Singtel Optus, Vodafone Hutchison Australia and TPG Telecom soothing worried members of the public is becoming a significant challenge as 5G rollouts ramp up across the country.
Already, council meeting minutes as far spread as the Blue Mountains and Tweed in NSW show groups of residents have raised health concerns about the technology this year. There are anti-5G groups in almost all capital cities across the country.
Optus vice president of network deployment Lambo Kanagaratnam said in a statement that the telco would “always consult with the community” when installing small cell 5G technology in a new neighbourhood.
“Given heightened concerns around small cells and 5G we will be stepping up our community engagement processes,” Mr Kanagaratnam said.
A Telstra spokesman said in a statement the telco had a dedicated team for compliance “as well as consulting and working with communities as we roll out the network”.
Telecommunications sources say local programs are being considered with some councils to help educate residents about the safety of the new mobile networks.
A spokesman for Minister of Communications Paul Fletcher said in a statement that there are “no adverse health effects caused by the low levels of electromagnetic energy from 5G telecommunications facilities”.
“The government acknowledges that there is significant community interest in being satisfied that rigorous safety standards are in place to guard against the potential health risks of exposure to EME from mobile phone base stations,” the spokesman said, adding the department was working with ARPANSA, the telco regulator and the telco industry group CommsAlliance to better inform Australians.
Ms Wolf, however, remains unconvinced about the assurances that have so far been given and says more people across Australia are turning against the technology.
“People are awake now to the fact that the government doesn’t have our backs and the media doesn’t necessarily have our backs – and if they do there’s a lot of stuff we can’t talk about. We know we’re being censored … so people are more open to hearing about these things,” she said.
“Ultimately, we want everything stopped and safety tested. We’re just trying to get them to stop rolling this out and prove that it’s safe.”
Related links below – Mick Raven