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Lush Cosmetics to deactivate Instagram, Facebook, TikTok and Snapchat accounts

Co-founder: ‘overwhelming evidence we are being put at risk when using social media’
Holiday shoppers check on discounts at Lush, a cosmetics store at Cherry Creek Shopping Center in Denver, Colo. on Friday, Nov. 24, 2017. THCANADIAN PRESS/AP-Tatiana Flowers

Lush Cosmetics will deactivate its social media accounts later this week in a bid to get tech companies to make online platforms safer.

The U.K. retailer, which sells bath and body products and has a large footprint in Canada, announced its plan Monday to cease posting on Instagram, Facebook, TikTok and Snapchat accounts by Friday.

The company, which likened social media to “a dark and dangerous alleyway,” said the deactivation decision is meant to address consumers’ mental health challenges and will not be reversed unless the platforms are made safer.

“There is now overwhelming evidence we are being put at risk when using social media,” said Lush co-founder Mark Constantine, in a news release. “I’m not willing to expose my customers to this harm, so it’s time to take it out of the mix.”

Facebook and Instagram refused to comment on the campaign, while Snapchat and TikTok did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Instead of using the platforms, Lush will invest in new ways to connect and for now can still be found on Twitter and YouTube.

Lush had previously tried to abandon social media in 2019 with just its U.K. accounts, but came back when the COVID-19 pandemic began.

Lush is now bringing back the deactivation and applying it to all 48 countries it operates in because its “resolve has been strengthened” by information from whistleblowers who recently laid out harms young people face because of algorithms and “loose regulation.”

Over the last few months, Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen accused the company of prioritizing engagement and user growth over online safety.

Documents from the former Facebook data scientist suggested the social media giant knew about the harms its products cause and often did little or nothing to mitigate them.

Courtney Radsch, a senior fellow at the Centre for International Governance Innovation, said it’s hard to tell how much success Lush will have with its deactivations because it didn’t release a specific list of demands from the social media companies.

Getting the platforms to take action, she said, is typically a “long slog” made more difficult because “a couple of social media platforms have held the world hostage by becoming the walled gardens where all of our communication takes place.”

Companies have tried to push Facebook to adopt more consumer-friendly policies before, but the tech giant has not relented.

For example, Vancouver athleticwear companies Lululemon Athletica Inc., Mountain Equipment Co-op and Arc’teryx pulled their paid ads from Facebook in July 2020 as part of a global StopHateForProfit boycott supported by Coca-Cola, Unilever, Honda America, Patagonia and more.

The companies wanted to boycott Facebook because they believed it had not done enough to keep racist, false and dangerous content or white supremacists off its platform.

StopHateForProfit’s website said studies completed since the boycott found “no platform has made significant structural changes” and Facebook made the least progress toward meeting the coalition’s demands.

So far, Lush hasn’t had any other businesses take up its fight, which could blunt the campaign’s effectiveness.

“Companies will wait and see what type of coverage this generate in terms of free earned media for Lush versus having to spend on advertising right around the holiday season,” said Radsch.

“And then of course, they will also want to see the impact on sales and traffic revenue.”

—Tara Deschamps, The Canadian Press

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