Instagram took down the account of Robert F. Kennedy Jr., the political scion and prominent anti-vaccine activist, Wednesday over false information related to the coronavirus.
“We deleted this account for repeatedly sharing debunked claims about the coronavirus or vaccines,” Instagram owner Facebook said in a statement.
Mr. Kennedy, the son of former United States Senator and Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, worked for decades as an environmental lawyer, but is now best known as an anti-vaccine crossover. A 2019 study found that two groups, including its nonprofit, now called Children’s Health Defense, funded more than half of Facebook ads spreading false vaccine information.
He found an even larger audience during the pandemic on platforms like Instagram, where he had 800,000 followers. Although Mr Kennedy has said he does not oppose vaccines as long as they are safe, he regularly endorses the discredited links between vaccines and autism and has argued that it is safer to get the coronavirus than to ‘be vaccinated against it.
Facebook is increasingly aggressive in its efforts to stamp out vaccine misinformation, saying this week it will remove posts with false claims about the coronavirus, coronavirus vaccines and vaccines in general, which it will remove. be paid advertisements or user-generated posts. In addition to Mr. Kennedy’s Instagram account, the company said it deleted several other Instagram accounts and Facebook pages on Wednesday under its updated policies.
They did not include Mr. Kennedy’s Facebook page, which was still active as of early Thursday and made many of the same baseless claims to more than 300,000 followers. The company said it is not automatically deactivating accounts on its platforms and that there are no plans to delete Mr. Kennedy’s Facebook account “at this time.”
Members of Mr Kennedy’s family have spoken out against his anti-vaccine efforts, including a brother, sister and niece who accused him of spreading “dangerous disinformation” in a column they wrote for Politico in 2019. Another niece, Kerry Kennedy Meltzer, a doctor at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital / Weill Cornell Medical Center, wrote an opinion piece in The New York Times in December to challenge her claims.
“I love my Uncle Bobby,” she wrote. “I admire him for many reasons, the main one being his decades-long struggle for a cleaner environment. But when it comes to vaccines, he is wrong.