Robert F. Kennedy Jr. attends a protest against the Green Pass, a COVID-related safety pass for Italian workers, in Milan, Italy, November 2021.
Children’s Health Defense, or CHD, one of the largest anti-vaccine organizations in the United States, said in an email newsletter Thursday morning that its Facebook and Instagram accounts have been shut down by Meta as of Wednesday, August 17. The organization added screenshots of the notifications it received, both of which said that they were banned based on Meta’s guidelines against “misinformation that could cause physical harm.”
CHD is the brainchild of Robert F. Kennedy Jr., one of the most prominent vaccine “skeptics” in the world; the organization was previously named World Mercury Project, a reference to his false claim that vaccines contain an unsafe type of mercury, which they do not. A 2019 study found that CHD was at the time a top buyer of anti-vaccine ads on Facebook. Kennedy has persistently denied being anti-vaccine, saying that he simply wants them to be safe and rigorously tested, which they very, very much are. During the COVID-19 pandemic, CHD has repeatedly questioned the safety of vaccines against COVID, seemingly contravening Meta’s policy against COVID-19 misinformation, which says it’s trying to stem “misleading or sensationalized” information about vaccine safety.
Meta’s enforcement against Kennedy and CHD has been an incoherent mess: RFK’s personal Instagram account was banned in February 2021, but his public Facebook page, which has 247,000 followers, is active as of right this minute. In its email, CHD decried, obviously, the decision to shut down its pages, while making it clear that it had seen this coming for a while. “Despite not posting content on Facebook for the past 21 days due to an existing 30-day ban, and constantly self-censoring our content in an attempt to avoid continual shadow-banning and censorship, both pages were abruptly deplatformed,” the organization wrote. “Removing CHD accounts is evidence of a clearly orchestrated attempt to stop the impact we have during a time of heightened criticism of our public health institutions.”In August 2020, CHD tried to sue Facebook and an odd grab-bag of other organizations, including the Poynter Institute, a journalism nonprofit. The case was dismissed in June of 2021; CHD is now appealing it with the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court. A Meta spokesperson told Motherboard, “We removed these accounts for repeatedly violating our policies.”