Instagram on Sunday lifted its suspension against the account of Robert F. Kennedy Jr., an outspoken anti-vaccine activist and nephew of the late president John F. Kennedy, who is running for president as a long shot Democratic challenger to President Biden.
The popular photo-sharing platform removed Kennedy’s account in 2021 for “repeatedly sharing debunked claims about the coronavirus or vaccines,” and later in 2022 took down the account of his nonprofit, Children’s Health Defense, for spreading medical misinformation.
The accounts gained notoriety during the covid-19 pandemic as prolific spreaders of false and misleading claims about the coronavirus and vaccines.
The decision follows Kennedy’s announcement in April that he plans to run for president, becoming the second Democratic candidate seeking to oust Biden.
“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,” Andy Stone, spokesman for Instagram and Facebook parent company Meta, said in a statement to The Washington Post.
While Kennedy’s personal Instagram account has been restored, Facebook and Instagram are maintaining their suspensions against his organization, Stone confirmed. His personal account, which returned with a verified status, had over 760,000 followers as of Sunday afternoon.
Meta has long argued that users should be able to engage with posts from political leaders, a stance that has drawn blowback from critics calling for the platform to crack down on or fact-check misleading statements and advertisements from public officials and candidates.
Kennedy tweeted Thursday that his campaign was unable to set up an Instagram account, accusing the company of seeking to “silence” him and calling the move “undemocratic.”
“Social media is the modern equivalent of the town square. How can democracy function if only some candidates have access to it?” he tweeted.
Meta said on Sunday the restriction was a mistake. “We quickly fixed the issue that prevented the campaign Instagram account from being created,” Stone said in a statement.
Meanwhile, Twitter owner Elon Musk replied to Kennedy’s tweet with an invitation to participate in an audio discussion with him on the platform the following week. Kennedy agreed and the two are set to speak Monday afternoon.
Musk recently hosted a similar event with Republican presidential candidate Ron DeSantis, who marked the launch of his White House run on the site.
Republicans have long accused Facebook, Instagram and other social networks of censoring conservative viewpoints, a charge the platforms dispute. GOP officials grew increasingly critical of tech companies’ handling of coronavirus misinformation during the pandemic.
Musk, who quickly rolled back Twitter’s policies on covid-19 misinformation after taking over the platform, has emerged as a prominent ally to Republicans in that cause, stoking claims of an anti-conservative bias in Silicon Valley.