Swedish minister’s ‘Russian trolls’ fanning 5G fears turn out to be… anti-radiation activists led by local granny
Sweden’s digitization minister blamed a flurry of anti-5G comments on the usual suspect – “Russian trolls” – but a closer look revealed that a local granny opposed to wireless radiation was behind the campaign.
The controversy dates back to late-December 2019, when Anders Ygeman, the Swedish energy and digital development minister, lamented that he had fallen victim to some “Russian trolls.” Who else could flood his Facebook page with hundreds of comments demanding that he backpedal on the introduction of 5G networks in Sweden?
“There is a Russian political interest in disrupting and hindering other countries’ development of 5G,” Ygeman told the Swedish press at the time. He also insisted that one of his Facebook posts had garnered almost 2,000 comments, many of which came from “fake accounts.”
Some media outlets took him at face value, but some decided to think outside the box. Last Sunday, local daily SVT ran a piece that appears to debunk Ygeman’s claims. Most of the comments in question can be traced back to a local grassroots group called ‘WiFi Radiation Health Risks Stop 5G,’ the paper claims.
It didn’t find any sign of Moscow’s hand in there; instead, the group appears to be run by a local 64-year-old Stockholm woman named Katarina Hollbrink who describes herself as an “ordinary Swedish grandmother who is worried about radiation.”
When contacted by SVT, Hollbrink said her jaw dropped when she learned of Ygeman’s allegations. “It felt ridiculous, there were a lot of people who came in and commented at our request,” the woman revealed.
Members of the group vent their anger on Facebook pages run by the authorities, media and politicians whenever they write positively about 5G. Hollbrink, who herself frantically campaigns against the installation of 5G devices, believes the minister should think twice before “accusing ordinary Swedish citizens of being Russian trolls.”
The Russian Foreign Ministry’s Facebook page weighed in on the controversy, ridiculing the blunder with a somewhat sassy meme. “When it turns out that ‘a Russian troll attack’ was in fact carried out by a domestic tinfoil-hat group,” it read.
Sweden is in the process of introducing super-fast 5G mobile telecoms networks, giving users several times faster web speeds compared to existing 4G technology. Unlike some other Western nations, it didn’t exclude Chinese tech giant Huawei from the race for 5G licenses – provided that the firm passed an independent review by the Swedish security agency.
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