Instagram lifts ban on anti-vaccine activist Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s account as he runs for president

(CNN) — Instagram announced this Sunday that it lifted the ban on access to Robert F. Kennedy Jr., the anti-vaccine activist who launched his presidential bid, two years after he closed Kennedy’s account for violating its rules related to covid-19.

“As he is now an active candidate for President of the United States, we are restoring access to Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s Instagram account,” Andy Stone, a spokesman for Instagram’s parent company Meta, said in a statement.

Kennedy, who has a long history of spreading vaccine misinformation, was banned from Instagram in February 2021.

A company spokesperson said at the time that Instagram had removed his account for “repeatedly sharing discredited claims about the coronavirus or vaccines.”

While Kennedy’s Instagram account was shut down, his Facebook account remained active. Both platforms are owned by Meta.

Kennedy was a leading anti-vaccination voice during the covid-19 pandemic, using her social media platforms to sow doubt and misinformation about vaccines.

Promoted false claims about vaccines being linked to autism and in 2022 compared vaccination mandates to Nazi Germany.

His wife, the actress Cheryl Hines, publicly condemned Kennedy’s comment as “reprehensible” after he invoked Anne Frank, murdered by the Nazis as a teenager.

Hines distanced himself from him in January 2022, tweeting: “Your views are not a reflection of mine.”

Kennedy’s return to Instagram, first reported by The Washington Post, will give him access to his more than 769,000 followers.

The decision comes at a time when mainstream media and social media companies are trying to navigate a 2024 election campaign plagued by allegations of misinformation and censorship.

Last Friday, YouTube announced that it would no longer remove content that included false claims that the 2020 US presidential election was stolen, reversing a policy instituted more than two years ago amid a wave of election misinformation.

The decision to reinstate Kennedy comes amid a flurry of activity between the candidate and Silicon Valley.

On Sunday, Twitter founder Jack Dorsey appeared to endorse Kennedy’s campaign for president, tweeting a YouTube video titled “Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. Argues He Can Beat Trump And DeSantis By 2024.” Dorsey added in the tweet: “he can and he will.”

This Monday, Kennedy is scheduled to participate in a live audio chat on Twitter with the company’s owner, Elon Musk.

Meta’s decision to allow Kennedy back on Instagram came a few days after the Democratic presidential candidate publicly complained that the platform was blocking the creation of a new account for his campaign.

Stone, the spokesman for Meta, told CNN on Sunday that the restriction was a mistake and that the company had fixed the problem.

Meta executives have long maintained that they believe political candidates should be able to use their platforms to reach voters, even if those candidates sometimes break rules that would get other users banned from their platforms.

2023-06-05 16:08:21

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