Melissa Velasquez Loaiza
(CNN) Instagram announced Sunday that it was lifting the ban on Robert F. Kennedy Jr., the anti-vaccine activist who launched his presidential bid, two years after he shut down Kennedy’s account for violating its covid-related rules. 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.
Anti-vaccine activist Robert F. Kennedy Jr. has ended his 2024 presidential bid
Kennedy was a leading anti-vaccination voice during the covid-19 pandemic, using her social media platforms to sow doubt and misinformation about vaccines.
He promoted false claims about the link between vaccines and autism and in 2022 compared vaccination mandates to Nazi Germany.
His wife, actress Cheryl Hines, publicly condemned Kennedy’s comment as “reprehensible” after he invoked Anne Frank, who was 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, would 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.
ANALYSIS | How bad is Ron DeSantis? He ranks in the polls at the level of Robert F. Kennedy Jr.
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 could use their platforms to reach voters, even if those candidates sometimes break rules that would get other users banned from their platforms.
The CNN Wire
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