Why Anti-vaccine Activist Robert F. Kennedy Jr. Has Been Banned from Instagram

Instagram removed the account of vaccine skeptic Robert F. Kennedy Jr. this week for spreading false information about COVID vaccines.

The Facebook-owned picture sharing app confirmed on Wednesday that Kennedy Jr.'s account was taken down for repeatedly pushing misinformation about the safety of vaccines being distributed globally to combat the coronavirus pandemic.

A Facebook spokesperson said the Instagram profile had been removed for "repeatedly sharing debunked claims about the coronavirus or vaccines."

Kennedy Jr.'s personal Facebook account, with over 302,000 followers, was still active on Thursday morning despite appearing to share similar claims about vaccines safety. A Facebook spokesperson told The Guardian that it does not automatically remove a user's profile on another platform just because one account is taken offline.

It was not clear which specific Instagram posts had violated the COVID misinformation policy. Facebook told CNN there was no plan to remove his personal Facebook profile "at this time." The social network was contacted for comment by Newsweek.

Kennedy Jr., the nephew of former U.S. president John F. Kennedy, chairs the Children's Health Defense, a non-profit claiming vaccines play a role in developmental disabilities and chronic illnesses in children, including asthma, autism and diabetes.

Most recently, Children's Health Defense published a video that disputed the safety of COVID vaccines and asserted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) was "unduly influenced by political motives and big business." The presentation was uploaded to YouTube on January 12 and had 8,134 views at the time of writing.

An Instagram account for the Children's Health Defense remained active as of Thursday morning, with an audience of roughly 170,000 users. Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is also still active on social app Twitter, where he shares posts with over 214,000 followers.

Facebook said in a blog post on February 8 that it was expanding its efforts to purge its platforms of false information about COVID and vaccines during the pandemic.

The social network confirmed that it would remove claims that COVID was man-made or manufactured, that vaccines are not effective at preventing COVID, that it is safer to get the disease than the vaccine, or vaccines are dangerous or cause autism.

It said: "We will begin enforcing this policy immediately with a particular focus on pages, groups and accounts that violate these rules. We'll continue to expand our enforcement over the coming weeks. Groups, Pages and accounts on Facebook and Instagram that repeatedly share these debunked claims may be removed altogether."

The Children's Health Defense website contains a section claiming that Kennedy Jr. is not an "anti-vaxxer," saying the description is "bullying terminology" and "an attempt to censor opinion and silence debate." The non-profit was contacted for comment.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr
Robert F. Kennedy Jr., nephew of former U.S. President John F. Kennedy, speaks to people from a wide spectrum, including coronavirus skeptics, conspiracy enthusiasts, right-wing extremists, religious conservatives, and others gathered under the Victory Column in the city center to hear speeches during a protest against coronavirus-related restrictions and government policy on August 29, 2020 in Berlin, Germany. His Instagram account was removed this week for spreading vaccine misinformation. Sean Gallup/Getty