Facebook-owned Instagram has permanently banned Robert F. Kennedy Jr, a prominent anti-vaccine activist who had over 800,000 followers on the platform, The Wall Street Journal reports. A spokesperson for the service said his account was removed “for repeatedly sharing debunked claims about the coronavirus or vaccines.” His account on Facebook, however, is still live, with Facebook telling Variety that it has no plan to remove the page “at this time.”
Kennedy has been cited as one of the top spreaders of COVID-19 misinformation by the nonprofit organization Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH), the WSJ notes. He also founded Children’s Health Defense, which CCDH calls a leading anti-vaccine charity.
Kennedy’s removal from the platform comes just a few days after Facebook announced it’s stepping up efforts to combat vaccine misinformation on its platforms. Although it banned anti-vaccination ads last October, and started removing vaccine misinformation in December, this week it said it was expanding the list of false COVID-19 and vaccine-related claims it would remove. In particular, it will remove posts that claim COVID-19 is man-made, or that vaccines are dangerous or ineffective.
Children’s Health Defense has previously challenged Facebook’s vaccine fact-checking initiatives. In a lawsuit filed last year, the group claimed that initiatives like fact-checking labels placed on its page created a “falsely disparaging” image of the organization.
Although Kennedy’s Instagram account has been removed, his pages are still live on Facebook and Twitter, with hundreds of thousands of followers between them. On Facebook itself he has over 300,000 followers, with 215,000 followers on Twitter. As of this writing, his most recent posts on both platforms contain links to Children’s Health Defense.