ANFR, the French spectrum management agency, regularly publishes information about exposure to electromagnetic fields (EMF). Ofcom in the UK and other administrations are carrying out similar work. They hope that this will help to reassure people that 5G is not a health risk.
But Gilles Brégant, the head of ANFR, told us that technical experts telling people their exposure to EMF is low is not enough to “kill the controversy”. More is needed to convince them 5G is safe.
5G + misinformation = panic
This reminded me of the point economics journalist Tim Harford makes about Brexit in his book How To Make The World Add Up. Most technical experts argued that leaving the EU was a bad idea, he notes. They said it would be costly and complex and was very unlikely to deliver the promised benefits or to solve the UK’s most pressing problems.
Despite this, the Brits—or just over half of those who took part in the referendum, at least—voted leave. The European Commission’s website debunking all the EU scare stories made up by UK tabloids didn’t help much either. To counter misinformation, you have to do more than point at it and say, “that’s not true”.
The lesson for Harford is that ‘speaking slowly and clearly will only get you so far’. To communicate complex ideas, we need to spark people’s curiosity and ‘even inspire a sense of wonder’.
Great science communicators like Stephen Hawking and David Attenborough ‘stoke the flames of our curiosity, making us burn with desire to learn more’. To win people over, you must first engage their interest.
The controversy Brégant refers to—documented in PolicyTracker‘s 5G messaging dossier—will continue to rage until those with evidence and knowledge have a story to tell that is more compelling than the false narratives that so many find so persuasive.
‘Ignite the spark of curiosity and give it some fuel, using the time-honoured techniques of storytelling, character, suspense and humour,’ Harford says. Easier said than done, you might think. That’s true. But regulators, and the industry, must try harder.