It’s just gotten slightly harder for prominent anti-vaxxer Robert F. Kennedy Jr to spread misinformation and disinformation about vaccines after he was deplatformed from a social media site.
Mr Kennedy was removed from the Facebook-owned Instagram platform on Wednesday.
“We removed this account for repeatedly sharing debunked claims about the coronavirus or vaccines,” a Facebook spokesperson said.
Robert F. Kennedy Jr’s Facebook page was still up as of Friday and so is an organisation he uses as a front to push vaccine misinformation.
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He used those two pages to share links to an article where he takes aim at media coverage of the Instagram ban, saying “characterisations” describing him as an anti-vaxxer are “false and misleading” and he “unequivocally rejects them”.
“Every statement I put on Instagram was sourced from a government database, from peer-reviewed publications and from carefully confirmed news stories. None of my posts were false,” Mr Kennedy claims.
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He goes on to theorise there is a conspiracy between Facebook, pharmaceutical companies and “captive” government regulators to censor anti-vaccine beliefs.
“This kind of censorship is counter-productive if our objective is a safe and effective vaccine supply,” Mr Kennedy said.
The ban comes around six months after he sued Facebook, accusing the social media and advertising giant of censorship for rejecting anti-vax ads and putting misinformation labels over posts trying to connect 5G technology to the coronavirus pandemic.
WHO IS ROBERT F. KENNEDY JR?
Let’s start with who he’s not: A doctor, epidemiologist, or any sort of vaccine expert.
He is an environmental lawyer, anti-vaccine activist and the descendant of an American political dynasty.
His uncle John F. Kennedy was the last US President to be assassinated, in 1963.
His father, former US attorney general Robert F. Kennedy was also assassinated five years later.
RFK Jr is the leader of a prominent anti-vaxxer group that hides behind its name, Children’s Health Defence (CHD), to advocate against vaccination despite all the lives the medical
Before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic that would stoke further anti-vaxxer misinformation, he made headlines in Australia for appearing in an Instagram photo with fellow anti-vaxxer Pete Evans (in a curious contrast to Mr Kennedy’s situation, Mr Evans has been kicked off Facebook, but not Instagram).
“Robert F. Kennedy is not doing ‘important work’ for coming generations; he is perpetuating dangerous, anti-scientific myths which are causing tremendous harm in countries including the United States and Australia,” then-Royal Australian College of General Practitioners president Harry Nespolon told news.com.au last year, before Dr Nespolon passed away in July.
Mr Kennedy is a proponent of the repeatedly debunked theory that vaccines cause autism.
WHY HAS HE BEEN KICKED OFF INSTAGRAM
Facebook has been recently trying to crack down on anti-vaccination content, part of a broader effort to tackle misinformation on the world’s biggest social media platform.
As part of that expansion, Facebook did a sweep to find and remove anti-vax content.
Mr Kennedy is huge proponent of said content, and his eagerness to spread it has also benefited Facebook financially in the past.
A study published in the journal Vaccine and seen by Ars Technica found the majority of anti-vaccine advertising on Facebook was purchased by a small number of organisations and Mr Kennedy was the single leading source for the ads, before the ads were banned.
While he has been kicked off Instagram, where he had close to 800,000 followers, he is still active on Facebook as of Friday morning.
His personal page, where he’s listed as an “environmental conservation organisation”, has over 305,000 followers.
A page for CHD that has more than 147,000 follow is also still active.
Some of the things posted on CHD in the past include claims (marked as false on Facebook) that “unvaccinated kids are healthier”, as well as links to reports “loaded with charts” that were also labelled as partly false.