Instagram removes anti-vaxxer Robert F Kennedy Jr for false Covid-19 claims

Maanvi SinghThu, 11 February 2021, 3:35 am

<img src="–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MDtoPTU3Ng–/–~B/aD02MDA7dz0xMDAwO2FwcGlkPXl0YWNoeW9u/; alt="<span>Photograph: Erik Pendzich/REX/Shutterstock
Photograph: Erik Pendzich/REX/Shutterstock

The prominent anti-vaxxer Robert F Kennedy Jr has been booted from Instagram for repeatedly sharing false claims about Covid-19 and the safety of vaccines.

Facebook confirmed on Wednesday that it had removed the profile of Kennedy Jr, a vaccine skeptic who chairs the Children’s Health Defense – a group that baselessly ties chronic childhood conditions to a number of factors including vaccines – as part of the social media platform’s efforts to remove vaccine misinformation.

Kennedy’s Instagram account was actioned “for repeatedly sharing debunked claims about the coronavirus or vaccines”, said a spokesperson for Facebook, which owns Instagram.

Related: Facebook bans misinformation about all vaccines after years of controversy

Kennedy’s Facebook account, however, remains active, despite promoting false, dangerous claims about the safety of vaccines and Covid-19 treatments. A company spokesperson said that Facebook does not automatically disable users across various platforms.

A 2019 study found that the majority of Facebook ads spreading misinformation about vaccines were funded by two groups: Kennedy’s organization, which was launched in 2016 under the name World Mercury Project, and Stop Mandatory Vaccinations, a project launched by the anti-vaccine crusader Larry Cook.

Facebook and Instagram have struggled to contain a deluge of misinformation and conspiracy theories about Covid-19 vaccines, and vaccines in general. The company pledged in December to remove all debunked claims about Covid-19 vaccines, and this week said it planned to expand that crackdown to include false claims about all vaccines.

The new community guidelines will apply to user-generated posts as well as paid advertisements.

Facebook groups, in particular, have been found to fuel the rise of anti-vaccine communities. Despite its latest policy to combat misinformation, conspiracy theories and false claims about vaccines and the virus remain on the company’s social media platforms.

Kennedy, the son of former US attorney general Bobby Kennedy, has been criticized by members of his family, including his brother, sister and niece for spreading false information about vaccines that they said was “tragically wrong”.