Instagram and Facebook have suspended Children’s Health Defense for repeated violations of COVID-19 misinformation policies

Instagram and Facebook this week suspended Children’s Health Defense after the anti-vaccine group led by Robert Kennedy Jr. repeatedly flouted rules prohibiting misinformation about COVID-19.

Children’s Health Defense, a nonprofit, is one of the most influential anti-vaccine organizations active on social media, where it has made misleading claims about vaccines and other public health responses to the pandemic.

In a statement, Kennedy likened Facebook’s actions to government censorship, despite the fact that Facebook is a private company that can set and enforce its own rules about misinformation.

“Facebook is acting here as a proxy for the federal government’s crusade to silence all criticism of draconian government policies,” Kennedy said.

According to a statement from the organization, which also noted that it has sued Facebook over its moderation policies, Children’s Health Defense had hundreds of thousands of followers at the time of the suspension.

Public health advocates and misinformation experts have criticized Facebook for not acting faster to curb potentially harmful misinformation about COVID-19 and vaccines.

Karen Kornbluh, director of the Digital Innovation and Democracy Initiative at the German Marshall Fund, said too many groups like Children’s Health Defense have been allowed to thrive on social media for too long. She noted that the group remains on Twitter.

“Today’s move is too late and too little,” Kornbluh said, adding that tech companies need to address the reasons why misinformation is spreading so quickly on social media.

Facebook and Instagram confirmed the company’s action in a statement to The Associated Press on Thursday.

“We removed these accounts because they repeatedly violated our policies,” a spokesman for Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, told AP. Per platform policies, bans are usually only enforced after multiple violations.

Several state affiliates of Children’s Health Defense remain on Facebook and Instagram despite the national organization’s ban. Kennedy was kicked from Instagram last year but still maintains an active account on Facebook.

Copyright © 2022 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved. Instagram and Facebook have suspended Children’s Health Defense for repeated violations of COVID-19 misinformation policies

Dais Johnston

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