Instagram and Facebook suspended Children’s Health Defense this week after the anti-vaccine group led by Robert Kennedy Jr. had repeatedly broken rules prohibiting misinformation about COVID-19.
Children’s Health Defense, a non-profit organization, is one of the Most Influential Anti-Vaccination Organizations active on social media, where it makes misleading claims about vaccines and other public health measures designed to contain the pandemic.
In a statement, Kennedy compared Facebook’s actions to government censorship, even though Facebook is a private company that can create and enforce its own rules about disinformation.
“Facebook is acting here as a surrogate for the federal government’s crusade to silence all criticism of draconian government policies,” Kennedy said.
Children’s Health Defense had hundreds of thousands of followers at the time of the suspension, according to a statement from the organization, which also noted it has sued Facebook for its moderation policy.
Public health advocates and experts on disinformation have criticized Facebook for not acting faster to contain 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 disinformation spreads so easily on social media.
Facebook and Instagram confirmed the company’s move in a statement to The Associated Press on Thursday.
“We have removed these accounts for repeated violations of our policies,” a spokesperson for Meta’s parent company, Facebook and Instagram told the AP. As per the platforms’ policies, suspensions are typically 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 got kicked off Instagram last year, but continues to maintain an active account on Facebook.