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Instagram bans Robert F. Kennedy Jr. for sharing 'debunked' vaccine claims as Facebook takes major steps to silence misinformation


So it begins

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Instagram removed Robert F. Kennedy Jr.'s account on Wednesday as part of parent company Facebook's latest effort to purge its platforms of what it considers to be "false claims" about the coronavirus and vaccines.

What happened?

In a statement, according to CNN, a Facebook spokesperson said, "We removed this account for repeatedly sharing debunked claims about the coronavirus or vaccines."

The spokesperson reportedly added that the tech giant has no plans "at this time" to take down Kennedy's Facebook account, which boasts more than 300,000 followers.

Kennedy, the son of former U.S. Attorney General and Sen. Robert F. Kennedy and the nephew of former President John F. Kennedy, is a well-known vaccine skeptic who regularly uses his social media platforms to speak out against vaccinations. He has lobbied Congress to grant exemptions to parents who live in states where vaccines for children are mandatory, CNN reported.

Kennedy, a lifelong Democrat, is the founder of the nonprofit Children's Health Defense, an organization that expresses doubts about the health benefits of vaccines. He has regularly voiced concerns over an alleged connection between vaccines and autism in children.

What's the background?

Kennedy's ban from Instagram is the highest-profile move by Facebook since the tech company initiated its clampdown on vaccine and COVID-19 "misinformation" earlier this week.

On Monday, Facebook announced in a newsroom update that, after consultation with the World Health Organization and other leading health agencies, it is "expanding" efforts "to remove false claims on Facebook and Instagram about COVID-19, COVID-19 vaccines and vaccines in general during the pandemic."

As a part of the effort, the company indicated it would no longer simply "downrank" objectionable content but would remove from its platform misinformation about the coronavirus and vaccines, such as claims that the virus was manufactured in a lab, that vaccines are not effective, that it's safer to get the disease than to receive the vaccine, and that in general, vaccines are toxic, dangerous, or cause autism.

Anything else?

The action against Kennedy appears to prove that Facebook was not bluffing when it announced the new effort. It also indicates that the social media giant intends to dig its heels in even as it and several other similar companies are under intense scrutiny for censorship practices.

Whether you agree with Kennedy's claims or not, the fact that he can be so easily silenced should be concerning to any American who cherishes the right to free speech.

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