On Wednesday, Instagram scrapped the account of Robert F. Kennedy Jr., the political scion and prominent anti-vaccine activist, over false information regarding the coronavirus.
“We have removed this account because it has repeatedly shared disproved claims about the coronavirus or vaccines,” Facebook, owner of Instagram, said in a statement.
Kennedy, son of former Senator and US Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, worked as an environmental attorney for decades, but is now better known as a vaccine crusader. A 2019 study found that two groups, including his nonprofit, now called Children's Health Defense, funded more than half of the Facebook ads spreading misinformation about vaccines.
He found an even wider audience during the pandemic on platforms such as Instagram, where he had 800,000 followers. Although Mr. Kennedy has said he is not against vaccines as long as they are safe, he regularly endorses discredited links between vaccines and autism and has argued that it is safer to contract the coronavirus than to be vaccinated against it.
Facebook is become more aggressive in its efforts to eradicate vaccine misinformation, saying this week that it would remove messages containing false claims about the coronavirus, coronavirus vaccines and vaccines in general, be it paid advertising or user-generated messages. In addition to Mr. Kennedy's Instagram account, the company said it had removed multiple other Instagram accounts and Facebook pages on Wednesday under the updated policy.
They do not include Mr. Kennedy's Facebook page, which was still active early Thursday and makes many of the same baseless claims to more than 300,000 followers. The company said it was not automatically disabling accounts on its platforms and there were no plans to delete Mr. Kennedy's Facebook account "at this time."
Children & # 39; s Health Defense did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Members of Mr. Kennedy's family have spoken out against his efforts against vaccination, including a brother, sister and niece who accused him of "dangerous disinformation". to distribute in one column they wrote for Politico in 2019. Another cousin, Kerry Kennedy Meltzer, a physician at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital / Weill Cornell Medical Center, wrote an opinion essay in The New York Times in December to challenge his claims.
& # 39; I love my Uncle Bobby & # 39 ;, she wrote. “I admire him for many reasons, including his decades-long struggle for a cleaner environment. But when it comes to vaccines, he's wrong. "