Who is Robert F Kennedy Jr and why are pro-vaxxers mad at him? Here's why his anti-vaccine group sued Facebook

The group has accused Facebook of censorship after anti-vax ads were rejected and claims about 5G technology and vaccines were labeled with 'misinformation' warnings


                            Who is Robert F Kennedy Jr and why are pro-vaxxers mad at him? Here's why his anti-vaccine group sued Facebook
Robert F Kennedy Jr (Getty Images)

Led by Robert F Kennedy Jr, an anti-vaccine group is suing Facebook and accusing it of censorship after several anti-vax ads were rejected and claims about 5G technology and vaccines were labeled with "misinformation" warnings in the wake of its new fact-checking program.

As reported by Daily Mail, a lawsuit was filed in a California federal court on August 17 and the group which dubs itself as Children's Health Defense (CHD) claimed the social media company violated its First and Fifth Amendment rights by actively "suppressing vaccine safety speech" online. Not just that, the non-profit group claimed it was wrongfully targeted after Facebook implemented a new algorithm to censor misinformation in February 2019. 

Back in 2019, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg implemented the new rule after coming under pressure from US lawmakers who pressured the company to impose measures to curb the spread of false content and ads. In a post on August 19, 2020, Children's Health Defense wrote: "Facebook prohibited us from posting the link to the Digital Freedom Platform (we noted the irony) but here is the information about the upcoming interview with Mikki Willis, director of Plandemic 1 and 2. It's scheduled to start at 12:00 noon Eastern today."


Facebook prohibited us from posting the link to the Digital Freedom Platform (we noted the irony) but here is the...

Posted by Children's Health Defense on Wednesday, August 19, 2020

 

The lawsuit claims: "This is a case about how an officer and an agency within the US Government 'privatized' the First Amendment by teaming up with Facebook to censor speech which, under the Bill of Rights, the Government cannot censor." It also goes on to say that the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention conspired with the World Health Organisation and Facebook "to suppress vaccine safety speech with a ‘warning label’ and other notices that appear to flag disinformation, but in reality censor valid and truthful speech".

The plaintiff on the case is Robert F Kennedy Jr, the nephew of assassinated US president John F Kennedy. Born in Washington, DC, in 1954, to Senator and Attorney General Robert F Kennedy and Ethel Kennedy, he is the president of the board of a non-profit environmental group named Waterkeeper Alliance that he helped found in 1999. 

He was a senior attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), a non-profit environmental organization from 1986 until 2017, and was also a board member and chief prosecuting attorney for Hudson Riverkeeper. A co-host for radio program 'Ring of Fire', he has also written 10 books including two New York Times bestsellers. Currently, he is known as an anti-vaccine activist and is said to support the link between vaccines and autism. The environmental lawyer-turned-vocal anti-vaxxer is the chairman of Children's Health Defense, which was formerly known as the World Mercury Project founded in 2016. 

His stance against vaccines has been long criticized. Robert's brother, sister and niece — Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, Joseph P Kennedy II and Maeve Kennedy McKean — chastised him for campaigning against vaccines, saying he has been disseminating "dangerous misinformation" that discourages immunization.

In the column published in Politico under the headline 'RFK Jr Is Our Brother and Uncle. He’s Tragically Wrong About Vaccines', they said, "We love Bobby. He is one of the great champions of the environment. We stand behind him in his ongoing fight to protect our environment. However, on vaccines he is wrong." They further added: "And his and others’ work against vaccines is having heartbreaking consequences. The challenge for public health officials right now is that many people are more afraid of the vaccines than the diseases, because they've been lucky enough to have never seen the diseases and their devastating impact."

Robert F Kennedy, Jr (Getty Images)

As per a study published in the journal Vaccine, Kennedy was the leading source for the ads and the majority of anti-vaccine advertising on Facebook was purchased by a small number of organizations before the ban. In a written statement along with the company's press release on the lawsuit, Kennedy Jr said: "This is an important First Amendment case testing the boundaries of government authority to openly censor unwanted critiques of government policies and pharmaceutical and telecom products on privately owned Internet platforms." 

The lawsuit also calls out Facebook's use of so-called "independent fact-checkers" — who are reportedly neither independent nor fact-based — to create oppositional content on CHD's page. Moreover, as per the press release, CHD alleges: "Facebook deactivated CHD's donate button and used deceptive technology (shadowbanning) to minimize CHD's reach and visibility. In short, Facebook and the government colluded to silence CHD and its followers. Such tactics are fundamentally at odds with the First Amendment, which forbids the government from censoring private speech — particularly speech that criticizes government policies or officials."

Reportedly, the court will decide whether Facebook's new government-directed business model of false and misleading "warning labels", deceptive "fact-checks" and disabling a non-profit's donate button passes under the First and Fifth Amendments, the Lanham Act and RICO. Those statutes protect CHD against online wire-fraud and false disparagement.