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Celebrity doctor in Maine blocked from Instagram over COVID-19, vaccine misinformation claims

Instagram has disabled the account of Dr. Christiane Northrup, a best-selling author and prominent gynecologist, for spreading misinformation about COVID-19 and vaccines, according to the social media platform’s parent company.

“This account was removed for breaking our rules on COVID and vaccine misinformation,” said a spokesperson for Facebook, which owns Instagram, via e-mail on Friday.

Northrup, a resident of Yarmouth, Maine, didn’t immediately respond to voice and e-mail messages seeking comment. The Portland Press Herald first reported on Instagram’s move to nix her account.

Northrup has faced criticism in recent months for her social media posts, landing in a report about the so-called “Disinformation Dozen,” compiled by the Center for Countering Digital Hate, a nonprofit that monitors online misinformation. The center described the report as a round-up of “twelve leading online anti-vaxxers,” including Northrup.

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Also on the list is Robert F. Kennedy Jr., son of the late senator Robert F. Kennedy and a longtime vaccine critic. Instagram removed his account in February for “repeatedly sharing debunked claims about the coronavirus or vaccines,” Facebook said at the time, according to the New York Times.

As for Northrup, the digital center report said, she “has embraced alternative medicine and anti-vaccine conspiracies. She has used her social media accounts to spread disinformation about the COVID-19 vaccine.” The report cited a January Facebook post in which she linked to a Google document that recommended “HCQ and Ivermectin among several substances as cures for COVID.”

The report also flagged a separate January Facebook post from Northrup, in which she made the baseless claim that vaccines can lead to increased risk of chronic illness in children.

While Northrup’s Instagram account wasn’t accessible Friday because of the ban, her Facebook page still appeared to be active. But she previously alluded to the controversy surrounding her social media posts in a Facebook video on April 19.

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“The light will win. The light always does win,” Northrup said in the clip. “I’ve just been reading that Amy Klobuchar, who’s some senator ... [is] calling for social media platforms to ban the likes of the Disinformation Dozen.”

The office of Klobuchar, a US Senator from Minnesota, said in a statement released April 19 that she and two Senate colleagues sent a letter to the heads of Twitter, Facebook, Google, and YouTube in January calling on the companies to “combat the spread of false and misleading information related to coronavirus vaccines.”

The letter said the Center for Countering Digital Hate’s so-called Disinformation Dozen are “the original sources of an estimated 65 percent of coronavirus disinformation online.”

In her video clip on April 19, Northrup also described a phone call she got from a think tank in Washington, D.C. asking about her public statements. The caller, she said, told her she wanted to interview someone “who she thought makes their living from anti-information.”

“They actually believe that everyone can be bought, and that everyone’s trying to climb some ladder of public office, or influence,” Northrup said. “What’s hard for these demons to believe is that there are those of us like you who are in this for humanity. Who are in this to be light workers. Who are doing God’s work on the earth plane at this now particular moment, facing down evil. What’s in it for us? Our souls. That’s what’s in it for us.”

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Northrup’s the author of several books including “The Wisdom of Menopause,” “Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom,” “Dodging Energy Vampires,” and “The Power of Joy,” according to her official website.

During a 2015 interview with Oprah Winfrey, Northrup spoke about a technique where people carry around photos of themselves from a time period when they felt happiest.

“You look at the picture, you remember how great that felt,” Northrup said. “And then you look at the picture about three, four times a day ... and then you live as though that is now, and that will begin to change your biology.”

“Really,” a stunned Oprah responded.

Northrup’s critics in the COVID era are singing a very different tune.

“Every night, she addresses tens of thousands of followers in ten-minute videos that deny the reality of the pandemic, promote every magical belief under the sun, and weave a grand Dungeons-and-Dragons-style narrative about the Age of Aquarius and Northrup’s Warriors of the Radical Light,” wrote Jonathan Jerry of the Office for Science and Society at McGill University in Montreal.



Travis Andersen can be reached at travis.andersen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.