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Call to iPhone did not cause steel wool to catch fire

April 15, 2020 GMT

CLAIM: Video shows an incoming call to a 5G iPhone setting steel wool on fire.

AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. The flames captured in the video were added through a digital effect. In addition, Apple has not yet launched 5G capable phones yet. 

THE FACTS: A video surfaced on social media with claims that electromagnetic waves from a 5G iPhone can set steel wool on fire. 

In the video, an iPhone is surrounded by steel wool. When the phone receives an incoming call, the wool appears to catch fire. 

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The video has been manipulated. When it is viewed frame by frame, a quick transition can be seen just before the steel wool begins to sparkle with what appears to be flames.

The video can be found in January on social media, and it re-emerged recently as conspiracy theories began circulating around 5G wireless service and the coronavirus pandemic.

While Apple has not launched 5G capable phones, experts say a ringing cellular phone would not set steel wool _ which is highly flammable _ on fire. 

“The phone itself doesn’t emanate some massive power,” Muriel Médard, professor of electrical engineering at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, told the AP in a telephone interview. “It couldn’t even if it wanted to.” 

She also emphasized that 5G wireless is relying on fairly conventional systems. People have been using these frequencies before. 

In recent weeks, there hasbeen a surge in conspiracy theories linking COVID-19 to the expansion of 5G wireless. There’s no evidence to support any link between the two, as the AP has reported. 

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This is part of The Associated Press’ ongoing effort to fact-check misinformation that is shared widely online, including work with Facebook to identify and reduce the circulation of false stories on the platform.

Here’s more information on Facebook’s fact-checking program: https://www.facebook.com/help/1952307158131536