The federal government will spend $9 million conducting a public awareness campaign on the safety of 5G technology in order to combat the spread of misinformation on social media.
Communications Minister Paul Fletcher announced the campaign on Monday, together with new measures to “build public confidence in the safety of telecommunications networks”.
The House of Representatives Standing Committee on Communications and the Arts is currently conducting an inquiry into the deployment of 5G in Australia and has been inundated with hundreds of submissions raising concerns with the health implications of the new technology.
Misinformation about the safety of 5G and the scientific research behind this have been widespread on social media.
Mr Fletcher acknowledged misinformation about 5G electromagnetic energy emissions (EME) had “caused concern in some parts of the community”, and new funding aimed to ease those concerns.
“The enhanced EME program will make sure all Australians have access to clear, reliable and reputable information so they can take advantage of new technologies like 5G – and feel empowered to do so safely,” Mr Fletcher said.
There ias also a wealth of information and studies confirming the safety of 5G, Mr Fletcher said.
“The rigorous safety standards for mobile networks and devices in Australia draw on extensive scientific research into EME emissions, globally and in Australia, over many decades. Emissions from mobile networks and devices in Australia typically fall below the regulated limits by factors of a hundred or more,” he said.
“EME levels from mobile networks and devices are typically at similar levels to familiar household devices such as microwave ovens and baby monitors. The safety standards for 5G networks are consistent with those applicable to early generations of mobile technology – even though 5G networks typically use radio signals which are lower power and over more tightly targeted areas than earlier generation networks.”
The funding includes $1.2 million for the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA) to enhance international engagement, undertake EME measurement studies and provide expert scientific advice on EME and health, along with $2 million to upgrade its laboratory facilities to test high frequency emissions.
The Department of Communications would be given $1.8 million to conduct the public communications campaign.
The announcement was welcomed by the Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association (AMTA).
“We are pleased that the government recognises the importance of 5G technology and the need to address misinformation about electromagnetic energy which has caused concerns in some parts of the community,” AMTA chief executive Chris Althaus said.
“5G is a significant evolution from today’s 4G networks. It has been designed to meet the very large growth in demand for data and connectivity in today’s modern society, enabling enhanced mobile broadband, instantaneous connectivity to billions of devices, the Internet of Things and tomorrow’s innovations.
In a submission to the 5G inquiry, Telstra said that the misinformation was “gathering momentum” and that the “fears being raised need to be quickly and respectfully addressed”.
“The level of misinformation without sound scientific basis or medical evidence circulating in the community about 5G EME and health is on a scale we have not seen with the rollout of previous generations of mobile technology,” Telstra said in the submission.
“Much of it appears to be driven largely by social media campaigns, and there is evidence to suggest that messaging in these campaigns is being influenced by foreign actors. We also observe that claims are often made that 5G hasn’t been tested, when in fact we have conducted considerable testing to confirm our network complies with EME standards.”
The ARPANSA has also provided evidence to the inquiry that 5G technology meets safety standards.
“Higher frequencies do not mean higher exposure levels. Current research indicates that there is no established evidence for health effects from radio-waves used in mobile telecommunications. This includes the upcoming rollout of the 5G network,” the agency said.