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5 Jun, 2023 19:53

Instagram un-bans US presidential candidate

RFK Jr. got his personal account back, but has not been able to set up a campaign handle
Instagram un-bans US presidential candidate

Robert F. Kenedy Jr.’s personal Instagram account was reinstated over the weekend, after the Democrat seeking to challenge President Joe Biden in the party primaries complained that the platform wouldn’t allow him to open a campaign profile.

“As he is now an active candidate for president of the United States, we have restored access to Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.’s Instagram account,” Meta spokesman Andy Stone said in a statement.

On Thursday, Kennedy tweeted that Meta – which also owns Facebook and WhatsApp – blocked his campaign from registering an account, responding with an automated message that this violated “Community Guidelines on account integrity and authentic identity.” He noted that his personal profile, “banned years ago,” had not yet been reinstated.

“To silence a major political candidate is profoundly undemocratic. Social media is the modern equivalent of the town square. How can democracy function if only some candidates have access to it?” he added.

The 69-year-old nephew of US president John F. Kennedy entered the primaries in April and is currently polling around 20% among Democrats. Before going into politics, he was an environmental lawyer and activist, notably on the issue of childhood vaccinations.

Facebook suspended his Instagram account in February 2021, shortly after Biden took office, for allegedly “repeatedly sharing debunked claims about the coronavirus or vaccines.” Stone, the spokesman for the since-renamed Meta, told CNN on Sunday that the decision was “a mistake” and that the company had “resolved” the issue.

Both Facebook and Instagram banned the accounts of RFK’s activist organization Children’s Health Defense in August 2022. They remained inactive as of Monday.

Getting Silicon Valley platforms to censor “misinformation” and head off any claims critical of official narratives was an important tactic of the “well-funded cabal of powerful people” who acted to “fortify” the 2020 US presidential election, according to Time magazine

The extent of these activities became widely known in March, when a group of independent journalists cited internal Twitter documents to reveal the existence of what they dubbed the “censorship-industrial complex.” The documentation came to light after Tesla and SpaceX founder Elon Musk bought Twitter last year. 

In response to RFK Jr’s complaints about Meta, Musk offered to host a discussion for Kennedy on the Spaces live audio platform, which drew some 60,000 users on Monday afternoon. Musk has also hosted Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ announcement that he would run for the Republican nomination against former president Donald Trump.