People who rely on social media for information about coronavirus are more likely to believe conspiracy theories and go outside with symptoms or breach lockdown rules, a new study revealed.
Research published by the Psychological Medicine journal found that 60 percent of people who believe that Covid-19 was directly linked to the world's growing 5G network used YouTube as their primary source of news.
And those who preferred Facebook to get their information 54 percent believed the 5G conspiracy theory compared to 20 percent who did not and 26 percent who were not sure.
The 5G link to coronavirus has been widely debunked by Governments and tech experts. Yet people have been damaging masts or even setting fire to them while phone and broadband engineers have been harrassed and threatened leading to public information campaigns in some countries.
The new study also found:
58% of those who have gone outside with Covid-19 symptoms use YouTube as a main information source, compared with 16% of those who haven’t;
56% of people who believe there's no hard evidence Covid-19 exists use Facebook as a key information source, almost three times higher than the proportion of non-believers who do (20%)
28% of those who believe that death figures have been deliberately exaggerated by the authorities have broken lockdown rules. 18% of believers have gone to work or outside with coronavirus symptoms, almost four times more than the 5% of non-believers.
More than one in 20 (8%) think the symptoms that most individuals blame on Covid-19 appear to be connected to 5G network radiation - a false conspiracy that is thought to have motivated a number of mobile mast attacks across the country during lockdown.
Of those who believe this theory, 60% said they get their information from YouTube, compared with 14% who think that it is false.
Among those who believe there is no hard evidence that the virus exists, 56% use Facebook as their key information source, almost three times higher than the proportion of people who do not believe such a thing (20%).
The findings, based on surveys of 2,254 UK residents aged between 16 and 75 carried out by King's College London and Ipsos Mori, also suggest a link between those who have broken lockdown rules and use social media for details about coronavirus as well.
Three in 10 people who wrongly believe that 5G is causing Covid-19 symptoms have gone outside despite suspecting they may have the virus, compared with just 4% among those who reject this belief.
'Our findings suggest that social media use is linked both to false beliefs about Covid-19 and to failure to follow the clear-cut rules of the lockdown,' said Dr Daniel Allington, senior lecturer in social and cultural artificial intelligence at King's College London.
'This is not surprising, given that so much of the information on social media is misleading or downright wrong.
'Now that some of the lockdown rules are being relaxed, people will have to make more and more of their own decisions about what is safe or unsafe - which means that access to good-quality information about Covid-19 will be more important than ever.