On August 18, 2022, Facebook and Instagram suspended Robert Kennedy Jr.'s anti-vaccine non-profit group for repeatedly violating the platforms' rules prohibiting misinformation about COVID-19.
The Children's Health Defense Fund Propagates False Information
The Children's Health Defense (CHD) is one of the most active anti-vaccine groups on social media. According to news reports, the CHD organization was caught spreading false and misleading claims about the COVID-19 vaccines and other public health measures designed to control the pandemic.
The CHD had hundreds of thousands of followers at the time of its suspension, according to the organization. The group also stated that it would sue Facebook over its policies.
The group is led by Robert Kennedy Jr, a prominent anti-vaxxer who made numerous misleading and false claims before Instagram removed his account in 2021.
According to a Meta spokesperson, the company removed the organization's accounts after they repeatedly violated the platform's policies. Several state affiliates of the CHD, however, remain active on Facebook and Instagram, and Kennedy maintains an active account on Facebook.
Facebook's misinformation policies have been criticized by experts for being insufficient in combating misleading content regarding COVID-19 and its vaccines. Digital Innovation and Democracy Initiative director Karen Kornbluh told the Guardian, "Today's step is too late and too little." According to the specialist, the platforms need to deal with the algorithms that make it possible for these sites to be weaponized in the first place.
Kennedy compared Facebook's actions to censorship by the government. "In this case, Facebook is serving as a surrogate for the federal government's crusade to silence all criticism of draconian government policies," Kennedy said.
The mission of the Children's Health Defense is to "end childhood health epidemics by aggressively eliminating harmful exposures, holding those responsible accountable, and establishing safeguards that prevent further harm." However, the non-profit organization is well-known for spreading lies and anti-vaccine propaganda. During the pandemic, the organization was identified as one of the primary sources of misinformation.
Children Are Vulnerable to Misinformation
Children's evolving capacities make it difficult for them to distinguish between reliable and untrustworthy information as their use of technology and social platforms grows. According to UNICEF, not only can misinformation harm them, but it can also act as a spreading tool for false content by sharing it with their peers. Misinformation and conspiracy theories, on the other hand, can affect children who do not have access to social media.
Children can be exposed to misinformation and false content, but they can also actively contribute to countering its spread by participating in online and active fact-checking. Let's Choose What We Watch, a UNICEF Montenegro program, has already provided children and young people with opportunities to practice their media literacy and journalism skills in order to improve the quality of child rights reporting.
Previously, Misbar addressed numerous claims concerning children's health and COVID-19 vaccines, including the claim that vaccines, including the COVID-19 vaccine, cause sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
In January, social media users shared a video purportedly showing an 11-year-old child dying immediately after receiving the vaccine shot injection. Our team contacted Ali Haj Suleiman, who agreed to sign the video. The video was filmed in the Syrian city of Ariha on October 20th, 2021, following a "horrific" massacre that killed 12 people, including four children, as a result of artillery shelling by Syrian regime forces.
Developing critical reading and thinking skills in children can help them define misinformation and its harm, as well as counteract its spread.
UNICEF believes that developing critical thinking skills in children, in both digital and non-digital contexts, is critical. The organization also suggests that policymakers create regulations to protect children from harmful misinformation while also allowing them safe access to a variety of content.