A chain message advising netizens to turn off their mobile phones at night as precaution against “deadly cosmic ray radiation” is being shared on Facebook (FB) and private messaging platforms. This is a hoax that has been circulating in the country as early as 2011.
This November, netizens shared a text saying that cell phones should be put off from 10:30 p.m. to 3:30 a.m. to prevent lethal cosmic ray radiation. To appear legitimate, the “report” was attributed to Filipino television host Kuya Kim Atienza and BBC News.
The full text read:
“Turn off daw mamaya ang mga cp 10:30 PM hanggang 3:30 AM kase malakas ang radiation dhil sa cosmic rays, nucli atomic. Ibinalita ni Kuya Kim at sa BBC news sa cable. Delikado’t bka nakkamatay daw. Wag itabi sa pagtulog ang cp, and please pakiforward din sa iba for their information. – (Forwarded) Kung outside Phil,imssge nyo relatives nyo
(Turn off your cp later from 10:30 PM to 3:30 AM because the radiation is high due to cosmic rays, nucli (sic) atomic. Kuya Kim reported it and BBC news on cable. It is dangerous and may be fatal. Do not keep your phones near you when sleeping, and please forward this to others for their information. If [you live outside] the Philippines, message your relatives).”
This is not true. Neither Atienza nor the BBC News released such reports. It is a hoax that previously circulated in the Philippines and other countries.
In 2010, the BBC reported a hoax in Ghana, similarly warning people about “cosmic rays” that would hit Earth, leading them to interpret it as an earthquake about to strike.
Different versions of “radiation hoaxes” then reached the Philippines in 2011, 2012, 2020 and 2022, prompting various media outlets and fact-checking organizations to debunk them. Fact-checking organizations in Thailand and India also flagged similar claims.
Atienza himself issued statements in 2020 and 2022, calling the chain message “old fake news.” In his 2022 post, he highlighted that this hoax resurfaces during times of disaster, reappearing during the Taal volcano’s eruption in 2020 and Typhoon Paeng’s onslaught in October 2022.
According to the International Atomic Energy Agency, cosmic rays are “extremely high-energy subatomic particles” that move through space. These, which are either remnants of supernovas or charged particles from the Sun, are deflected by the Earth’s magnetosphere.
“Sometimes, cosmic radiation does reach us, but without creating any harm, just like other low levels of radiation we are regularly exposed to,” their article read.
“Cosmic radiation exposes the body to radiation in a manner similar to exposure from a medical X-ray,” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also noted. The center also said this low radiation is unlikely to affect human health.
The hoax again made rounds online after reports of a solar superstorm possibly causing an internet apocalypse went viral among Filipino netizens.
Aside from private netizens’ posts, at least 114 public posts from FB pages and groups over the past 30 days carried the false claim according to the social media monitoring tool CrowdTangle.