The anti-vaccine group chaired by Robert F. Kennedy Jr. says it was “deplatformed” on Facebook and Instagram. Children’s Health Defense is a nonprofit known for being skeptical of vaccines, despite the fact that the vaccines available in the U.S. are safe and effective. Kennedy, the son of U.S. Sen. Robert F. Kennedy and a nephew of President John F. Kennedy, often uses his platform to spread misinformation about vaccines and anti-vaccine rhetoric.
In a news release, CHD said it was removed from the social media sites without warning, sharing screenshots of the notices it received. The notification from Facebook said the page was unpublished because it went against the company’s community standards on misinformation. “We encourage free expression, but don’t allow false information about COVID-19 that could contribute to physical harm,” the screenshot of the notification reads.
The notification from Instagram states the page was suspended for violating community guidelines. Both platforms are owned by Meta, formerly known as Facebook.
On its website, CHD posts articles opposing COVID-19 vaccine mandates and questioning the CDC and the safety of the COVID-19 vaccines – which have been proven safe and effective, with 223,684,995 people fully vaccinated in the U.S.
In a statement, Kennedy criticized Facebook’s removal of the CHD page. “We don’t need the First Amendment to protect popular or government-approved speech. They incorporated the First Amendment specifically to protect free expression of dissenting opinions. They understood that a government that can silence its critics has a license for every atrocity,” he said.
Meta has said “free expression is key to a thriving society.” In a 2018 blog post, the company said it moderates “content shared by billions of people” and does so “in a way that gives free expression maximum possible range.”
“But there are critical exceptions: we do not, for example, allow content that could physically or financially endanger people, that intimidates people through hateful language, or that aims to profit by tricking people using Facebook,” Meta said in the blog post.
Facebook has cracked down on the spread of misinformation on its platform, which picked up during the 2016 Presidential election and COVID-19 pandemic. Meta has said it is cracking down on things like hate speech, harassment, threats of violence and false information.
The company said it has quadrupled its safety and security teams to more than 40,000 people since 2016 and that it will reduce the distribution of content that doesn’t violate its rules, but has been rated false by independent fact-checkers, so that it doesn’t go viral.
Several high-profile accounts, including President Donald Trump’s, have been removed from Facebook, and even other social media platforms like Twitter, after the sharing of misinformation became rampant.
CHD sued Meta – then known as Facebook – in 2020, filing a 150-page complaint. CHD alleged Facebook’s fact-checking was not objective. A judge ruled in favor of the tech giant, but CHD appealed the decision.
Kennedy has been condemned by the Southern Poverty Law Center for a 2022 speech at an anti-vax rally, during which he compared measures to contain COVID-19 to Nazi-era restrictions during the Holocaust. The Auschwitz Memorial and Museum responded to Kennedy by saying his exploitation of “the tragedy of people who suffered, were humiliated, tortured and murdered by the totalitarian regime of Nazi Germany” was a “sad symptom of moral and intellectual decay.”
CBS News has reached out to CHD and Meta for comment and is awaiting response.