Facebook and Instagram start RFK Jr’s notorious anti-vax group

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. walks beside a man framed by other people's arms

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is one of the world’s leading vaccine conspirators, though he finds he has fewer and fewer platforms to spread his organization’s misinformation.
Photo: STEFANI REYNOLDS/AFP (Getty Images)

One of the most prolific and notorious online anti-vaxxer communities no longer has a home on Facebook or Instagram, as Meta has reportedly taken down both their accounts for spreading false information, the company confirmed.

The group called Children’s Health Defense, a community of vaccine conspirators, told their supporters On Wednesday that “without warning” Facebook and Instagram took down each of their separate pages. Screenshots of the suspensions showed they breached the platforms”community standards about misinformation that could cause physical harm. Specifically, it went against the company’s stance on covid misinformation. Facebook also has a declared ban about anti-vax misinformation, although in this case it was apparently about repeatedly promoting misinformation about the pandemic.

The group, which is led by loudmouthed anti-vaccine Robert F. Kennedy Jr. (who once came so close to a real seat of power), further complained that they hadn’t posted anything in the past three weeks due to a previous 30-day suspension. CDF, which used to be called “World Mercury Project” (relating to another long-demystified vaccine conspiracy) said their followers had more than 500,000 on their accounts. Jr. went out of his way to say Facebook was acting as a “surrogate for the federal government’s crusade to silence any criticism of the government’s draconian policies.”

Not to mention, as much as Kennedy proclaims he hates the federal government, he does not hesitate to take federal money intended to help companies affected by the pandemic. Kennedy is one of the most active spreaders of misinformation and has been called one of the 12 people most responsible for much of the misinformation about vaccines being circulated online, according to disinformation researchers.

A Meta spokesperson told Gizmodo that both accounts were removed “for repeatedly violating our policies.” Meta uses a strike system to enforce moderation, and depending on the type of violation, it may take more or fewer warnings before a page is suspended or, like CHDs, removed altogether.

Between selling books, videos and general dribbling about the dangers of vaccines, Kennedy and the Children’s Defense Fund have struggled with social media sites deleting their accounts. Google off hook their YouTube page last year in a sweep of accounts spreading vaccine conspiracies. Kennedy himself saw his Instagram account disassembled last year, although his Facebook page remains up and running as ever. Facebook has a stated policy on not deleting users’ separate account pages for content they post on other pages they run.

In the 2021 NPR interview, Kennedy said he had to post “pictures of unicorns and kittens” to not be removed from Facebook. He still advertises his website and newsletter on his page.

It’s unclear what was the final straw that made Meta drop the ban hammer, but Facebook generally failed to get many consistency on the application of its disinformation policies. It’s been particularly bad for anti-vaxxer nonsense, Facebook says own internal documents.

Anti-vaxxers often lower their heads deep deep rabbit hole in order to justify their intense and unscientific skepticism towards vaccines. These range from beliefs that they are untested (it’s not true) to the rather obscene belief that vaccines contain “satanic” ingredients (they…um…no).

But don’t try to have that argument with someone who calls themselves a “vaccine skeptic” or you are in one hell of a time. There is still hope that vaccine skeptics are not as many as they were once online. Yet the most active remain prolific on any site that still allows them to hold court. It seems that the best way to reduce this influence is to limit the number of places where they can reach a mass audience.

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