Instagram Bars Robert F. Kennedy Jr. After Vaccine Posts

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Photo credit: Sean Gallup - Getty Images
Photo credit: Sean Gallup - Getty Images

From Town & Country

Instagram, which is owned by Facebook, announced last night that it has permanently banned Robert F. Kennedy Jr. “for repeatedly sharing debunked claims about the coronavirus or vaccines.” The lawyer and environmental activist, who is the nephew of the late President John F. Kennedy, is a longtime critic of vaccination programs and has frequently made controversial claims, and shared studies dismissed by the larger scientific community, on his social media accounts.

As of this morning, Kennedy’s Facebook page, which has 300,000 followers, and his Twitter account, which has 214,000 followers, remained up.

Kennedy is widely lauded for his environmental advocacy, including his work with Riverkeeper, a non-profit instrumental in the ongoing cleanup of the Hudson River. His attacks on vaccines, however, have drawn wide criticism, including from members of his own family.

In December, his niece Kerry Kennedy Meltzer, a physician at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center, wrote in an opinion piece for the New York Times, “As a doctor, and as a member of the Kennedy family, I feel I must use whatever small platform I have to state a few things unequivocally. I love my uncle Bobby. I admire him for many reasons, chief among them his decades-long fight for a cleaner environment. But when it comes to vaccines, he is wrong.”

In a 2019, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, Joseph P. Kennedy II, and Maeve Kennedy McKean, wrote in Politico, “Robert F. Kennedy Jr.—Joe and Kathleen’s brother and Maeve’s uncle—is part of this campaign to attack the institutions committed to reducing the tragedy of preventable infectious diseases. He has helped to spread dangerous misinformation over social media and is complicit in sowing distrust of the science behind vaccines.”

In an interview last year, Kennedy told Town & Country he didn’t mind being criticized by his family. “I grew up in a milieu where we argued every night at the dinner table,” he said. “We were encouraged to argue and to maintain friendships with each other, all of our family love, so I don’t think it’s had any effect. It’s just that we differ about these things.”

Facebook’s decision to remove Kennedy’s Instagram account came after it announced recently that it would step up efforts to remove misinformation about coronavirus and vaccines on its apps.

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