Instagram on Wednesday deleted the report by Robert F. Kennedy Jr., the political scion and prominent anti-vaccine activist, for providing false information related to the coronavirus.
“We removed this account because we repeatedly shared debunked claims about the coronavirus or vaccines,” Facebook, which owns Instagram, said in a statement.
Mr. Kennedy, the 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 crusader against vaccines. A 2019 study found that two groups, including his nonprofit now called Children’s Health Defense, had funded more than half of the Facebook ads spreading misinformation about vaccines.
During the pandemic, he found an even wider audience on platforms like Instagram, which he had 800,000 followers on. Although Mr Kennedy has said he is not against vaccines while they are safe, he regularly advocates discredited links between vaccines and autism, arguing that it is safer to contract the coronavirus than to get vaccinated against it.
Facebook is becoming more aggressive in its efforts to stamp out misinformation about vaccines, and this week it says it would remove posts with flawed claims about the coronavirus, coronavirus vaccines, and vaccines in general, whether it was paid advertisements or user-generated Posts. In addition to Mr. Kennedy’s Instagram account, the company said it removed eight more Instagram accounts and Facebook pages on Wednesday as part of its updated policy.
They did not include Mr Kennedy’s Facebook page, which was still active early Thursday and making many of the same unfounded claims against more than 300,000 followers. The company said it has not automatically disabled accounts on its platforms and that there are no plans to delete Mr. Kennedy’s Facebook account “at this point.”
Children’s Health Defense did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Members of Mr. Kennedy’s family have spoken out against his anti-vaccination efforts, including a brother, sister and niece who accused him of “dangerous misinformation” in a column they wrote for Politico in 2019 . Another niece, Kerry Kennedy Meltzer, a New York Presbyterian Hospital / Weill Cornell Medical Center doctor, wrote an opinion piece in the New York Times in December challenging his claims.
“I love my uncle Bobby,” she wrote. “I admire him for many reasons, including his decades of struggle for a cleaner environment. But when it comes to vaccines, he’s wrong. “