By: Vivek J
July 11 2023
This 2019 video shows Boris Johnson speaking about the dangers of technology, and not the smart city agenda.
A video clip of former U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson that appears to imply that he is speaking about the smart city “agenda” has gone viral on Facebook (archive can be seen here).
A text embedded into the reel reads, “He just told us the Smart City Agenda…” In the video clip, Boris Johnson says, “In the future, smart cities will pullulate with sensors, all joined together by the internet of things.” He can also be heard saying, "This technology can be used to keep every citizen under round-the-clock surveillance.” These words, as seen in the Facebook reel, appear to support smart city conspiracy theories.
Smart city conspiracy theories have arisen from proposals by the United Nations (U.N.) and the World Health Organization (WHO) linking them to a purported plan by some of the most influential people to control the global populace and enslave them.
However, this clip of Boris Johnson’s speech has been taken out of context and linked to the smart city agenda conspiracy theory.
Searching for phrases from the viral video showed that this clip was taken from a speech Johnson made addressing the general debate during the 74th session of the U.N. General Assembly in September 2019. This report also contained a picture of Johnson standing in front of a similar background in the Facebook reel.
The U.N. news report noted that Boris Johnson was speaking about technology's harms and expressed concerns about how such technologies involving Artificial Intelligence (AI) would be used in the future. It quoted him as saying, “Like nuclear power, it is capable of both great good and harm, but he wondered whether artificial intelligence will be a boon for humanity or produce “pink-eyed terminators” here to “cull the human race.” He cited the human impulse to mistrust any technological innovation, noting the influence of anti-vaxxers.
An extended version of the video available on the United Nations YouTube channel clearly shows the then-U.K. Prime Minister, expressing his concerns about how technology could be misused. The same video was also uploaded on YouTube by other news organizations.
Thus, it is clear that Boris Johnson was speaking about the possibilities in which AI and other technologies could be misused. This speech is not related to the unfounded smart city agenda conspiracy theory, and a clip from this speech has been shared out of context.
A 2015 United Nations proposal on the “Sustainable Development Goals 2030” included having smart cities by upgrading slums and ensuring people had access to better housing and essential services. This proposal was picked up by conspiracy theorists and was linked to the Agenda 2030 conspiracy theory by naming it a “Smart City Agenda.”
This conspiracy theory could be referred to as an extension of well-known conspiracy theories like the New World Order or the Great Reset conspiracy theories. Logically Facts has debunked several such conspiracy theories, including the “15-minute cities” conspiracy theory that can be closely related to the smart city agenda conspiracy theory.
The clip of Boris Johnson shared in the reel has been taken from his speech at the 2019 U.N. General Assembly. The clip has been misrepresented to appear as though he was introducing the plan for the smart city agenda. From the context of the full speech, it is clear that Johnson was, in fact, speaking about the harm technology could cause if misused. Therefore we have marked this claim as false.