Lush has announced it is closing its accounts on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and TikTok until the social media sites do a better job of protecting users from harmful content.
The campaigning beauty retailer said it had “had enough” after the allegations of the Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen, who claims the company puts profit ahead of the public good.
The Lush chief digital officer, Jack Constantine, said the company would not ask customers to “meet us down a dark and dangerous alleyway”, adding that some social media platforms were “beginning to feel like places no one should be encouraged to go … Something has to change.”
Constantine said the company spent a lot of time inventing products to help people to unwind and look after themselves. Social media platforms had become the antithesis of this, he argued, with algorithms designed to “keep people scrolling and stop them from switching off and relaxing”.
The Poole-based retailer, best known for its fragrant soaps and bath bombs, has run campaigns over the years linked to social causes, with subjects ranging from the targeting of activists by undercover police officers to preventing the extinction of hen harriers.
“When it gets to a point that our customers’ wellbeing is being put in jeopardy because of the channels on which we are trying to connect with them, then something doesn’t sit right for us,” Constantine said.
As anyone who has tried knows, giving up social media is not easy. This holds true for Lush too, as this is the second time the company, which has more than 400 stores in 48 countries, has said it is quitting the sites, having previously announced the step in 2019. The company blamed “Fomo” (fear of missing out) for the relapse.
Lush said it hoped the platforms would introduce strong best practice guidelines, and that new laws would be passed to protect users.
Until then, the company said it was trying to “shield our customers from the harm and manipulation they may experience while trying to connect with us on social media”. All Lush’s brand, retail and people accounts around the world will close from Friday.
The retailer said it planned to find better channels of communication elsewhere, as well as using tried and tested routes. For the time being it will continue to have a presence on Twitter and YouTube.
Haugen, a former product manager at Facebook, leaked tens of thousands of internal company documents after becoming frustrated that it was not publicly acknowledging the harm its platforms could cause.
The documents have triggered a maelstrom of allegations, including that Facebook knew its products were damaging teenagers’ mental health, were fomenting ethnic violence in countries such as Ethiopia and were failing to curb misinformation before the 6 January Washington riots.
In a statement responding to Haugen’s accusations, Facebook said it continued to make significant improvements to tackle the spread of misinformation and harmful content, adding: “To suggest we encourage bad content and do nothing is just not true.”
In relation to the story about Facebook being harmful to teenagers’ mental health, the social media site pointed to a blogpost by its head of public policy, Karina Newton, that said the report had “focused on a limited set of findings and casts them in a negative light”.