FactCheck Social Media

A circuit board with a “COV.19” sticker is from an old pay TV box, not a 5G tower

2020-05-19 16:53:20

The Statement

A Facebook video claiming to show a piece of 5G equipment labelled “COV.19” is being shared on Facebook as conspiracy theorists and 5G opponents target telecom masts in the UK and other parts of Europe

The May 14 Facebook video features a man wearing a face mask, a clean yellow hardhat and and orange hi-vis jacket, who claims to have been “working erecting 5G masts on towers like the one behind me … while everybody else has been in lockdown”. 

The man claims he has opened a “5G kit” despite being “explicitly asked not to”. The camera then turns to a piece of circuit board he is holding. In the upper left corner of the board is a silver component with a label on it that reads “COV.19”. 

The man then says: “This is a piece of f…ing 5G kit and it says COV-19 on it. I don’t really know of any product or any company that produces circuitry like this, but that’s the brand name, COV-dot-19”. 

He then goes on to claim while panning the camera up at an unidentified telecommunications tower:  “I’m not a f…ing conspiracy theorist, obviously I’ve read all that stuff online about coronavirus and COVID-19, but why the f… are they putting circuitry like that in towers like that?” 

The caption on the video reads: “Covid-19 circuit boards being installed in 5G towers yeah ok” with two laughing emojis.

The May 14 Facebook video has been viewed over 160,000 times, been shared over 10,000 times and attracted over 950 likes. 

A still image from the video has appeared in a Facebook post here and the video appears on Instagram here

Facebook video still
 A still from a video in which a man claims to be a 5G installer with a component labelled “COV.19”. 

The Analysis

The 5G network is the fifth generation of cellular mobile networks. The technology allows for faster data transfers, lower latency and will allow the connection of more devices to a mobile network at any one time

Telco companies including Telstra are currently rolling out 5G networks around capital cities in Australia, while a recent Parliamentary Report into the technology declared it will underpin a fourth industrial revolution in this country. 

During the COVID-19 crisis conspiracy theories seeking to connect the virus to the rollout of 5G technology have spread on social media networks. The theories have been debunked by experts and government agencies, but phone masts have still been attacked in the UK and other parts of Europe

The man in the May 14 video presents himself as an installer of 5G equipment at an unidentified location. The man, who wears a face mask, hardhat and hi-vis jacket, has a British accent and stands beside a blue van. Across a road, on the far side of a brick wall, is a telecommunications tower. The man claims he has been “installing 5G masts on towers” despite masts and towers being different support structures used in telecommuncations networks.

During the one minute video the man waves around a piece of blue electronic circuit board that has on it a component labelled with a sticker that reads “COV.19”. He says: “this is a piece of 5G kit and it says COV 19 on it”. 

Through initial comments on the post and then by further research, AAP FactCheck identified the circuit board in the video as a component used in a Virgin Media (UK) pay-TV set top box. Virgin Media told AAP FactCheck in an email the component looks like a piece of hardware used in a set-top box, the Cisco 4585 HD (non-PVR) set top box, issued around nine years ago.

“That is a board from a very old set top TV box and which never featured any component parts inscribed/stamped/printed or otherwise with COV 19. It has absolutely no relation with any mobile network infrastructure, including that used for 5G,” a Virgin Media spokesperson said. 

There are other signs that the component featured in the video is not what it’s claimed to be and is in fact from a set top box. At the 13-second mark the video shows the circuit board has a SCART connector –  a 21 pin connector used to connect visual/audio equipment and an RF cable-in connector, a standard connector for a coaxial cable, as seen on the back of this Cisco set top box on the left of the image.

At 59 seconds into the Facebook video, the marking “Hannstar J MV-1” is clearly visible at the bottom of the piece of hardware. HannStar Display Corporation is a Taiwanese company that manufactures components for computer monitors, televisions and notebook displays.

The last few frames of the video also show a what appears to be a disassembled black casing on the bonnet of the blue van. The casing  resembles that of a set top box or similar device. 

Telco tower
 A piece of circuit board seen in a Facebook video is not from a telecommunications tower. 

The Verdict

Based on the evidence, AAP FactCheck found the Facebook post to be false. The piece of circuit board in the video is from a pay-TV set top box like those used by Virgin UK. Virgin has confirmed the component in its boxes, made by Cisco, was not labelled with the term “COV-19”. The circuit board appears to have coaxial and SCART connectors used in audio-visual equipment and was manufactured by a TV and display components company.

False – The primary claims of the content are factually inaccurate.

* AAP FactCheck is accredited by the Poynter Institute’s International Fact-Checking Network, which promotes best practice through a stringent and transparent Code of Principles. https://aap.com.au/