Far-right conspiracy theories about today's nationwide emergency alert test by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Federal Communications Commission are going viral on TikTok.
These conspiracy theories were sparked by an announcement that FEMA and the FCC are testing out a nationwide emergency alert system on August 11 at 2:20 p.m. EDT. According to FEMA, “Test messages will be sent to TVs and radios, along with select cell phones that have opted-in to receive test messages.”
Following FEMA’s announcement, conspiracy theorists began spinning an array of unfounded and incoherent conspiracy theories, speculating about the emergency alert test’s “real” purpose and suggesting nefarious goals like disrupting communication, spurring mandatory vaccinations, and initiating a lockdown.
Far-right conspiracy theorists Ron Watkins and Alex Jones both posted comments on Telegram about the August 11 test. Jones claimed that President Joe Biden was going to announce a nationwide lockdown on August 11. Watkins posted that the test will “ramp-up” COVID-19 “fear mongering” around the same time as potential new lockdowns. Watkins also folded in a number of conspiracy theories, referencing the “results” of a supposed audit of Arizona’s Maricopa County election results and MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell’s cyber symposium.
On TikTok, the unfounded conspiracy theories vary from anti-vaccination misinformation to COVID-19 denial to election fraud speculation and even to lies about 5G cell towers -- despite the platform's community guidelines prohibiting “misinformation related to emergencies that induces panic” and “medical misinformation.”
There is no validity to any of the August 11 conspiracy theories. Far-right conspiracy theorists have taken FEMA’s emergency alert test (which “runs the test every year or two to ensure the system is working properly” and has been around since the 1990s) out of context and are now making unfounded claims about its purpose to terrify their followers and drive up engagement. The test has no impact on other communication systems, simply sending out one message.
Here are some of the bogus August 11 conspiracy theories circulating on TikTok that have racked up millions of combined views on the platform:
False claim: The emergency alert system test will be used to intentionally disrupt communication.
- One TikTok user claimed that August 11 could be the trigger for the “Nwo," short for “New World Order,” a far-right conspiracy theory. Convinced that the emergency tests could disrupt communication, the creator encouraged users to “network with people close by where a radio or internet is not required.” The creator further warned that “all of these tests put together create a giant chaotic situation and we might need to be getting ready to march at the capitols.”
False claims: The test and 5G will trigger COVID-like symptoms.
- A user claimed of the August 11 test: “They’re going to send a vibration through your phone. Just remember, brain waves is the delta variant, the sleeping and the dreaming. I’m just saying this is all too deep to be a coincidence.”
- In another video, a different user shared video claiming that 5G networks will trigger “COVID-like respiratory symptoms” to make it seem like more people have COVID-19, spurring mandatory vaccinations. The video’s overlaid text reads “5G Roll out August 11th!”
False claims: The test is being held to censor Lindell’s election fraud findings.
- One user claimed that FEMA and the FCC are conducting the test on August 11 to align with Lindell’s cyber symposium, when he is supposedly going to present evidence of voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election. “And they thought August 11 would be the perfect day to do this test,'' the user said. “And I’m guessing that it’s possibly going to interfere with Mike Lindell’s livestream. How convenient. I guess they’ll do pretty much anything to prevent the truth from getting out.”
- Another user peddled the same claim, adding that on August 11, Biden will also “enact a mandatory COVID lockdown United States-wide.”
False claim: The test will activate a kill switch if you are vaccinated.
- One user claimed that vaccinated individuals will die on August 11 when the tests are sent out, describing it as a “kill switch.” The user claimed: “Now I’m not pumping fear. I’m not doing no fearmongering, none of that, but you guys do have to be aware of these types of things, especially for the people who are vaccinated. That is, this should be a day where you shouldn’t even want to be around no technology at all.”
False claim: Users should destroy 5G towers when “they turn off our communication” on August 11.
- Two different users advocated for destroying 5G towers because they believe it is the communication system of the elites and will be used to disrupt radio and internet. Both users engaged with the August 11 conspiracy theories either in the comments or in separate videos. “When they turn off our communication,” wrote one user in overlaid text, “WE NEED TO TURN OFF THEIRS!” with a video of a burning 5G tower.
- In a different video, another creator said, “When they turn off our communication, and they will, we need to turn off their communication ASAP. All right? This will not be used to help people or to assist them in any way. This will be used as a weapon. This will be used for them to communicate. Also, the tree of death has the best batteries for off-grid lifestyle, just so you know. And they love fire, as well. So when our communication goes down, the tree of death must go down next everywhere. Your local trees of death? Set ‘em ablaze, baby. All right? That’s what we’re doing.”
TikTok has once again failed its users by allowing unchecked misinformation to go viral and potentially fuel mass panic or widespread alarm.