Barbie Hoax Targets Mattel and Fools Some News Outlets

A number of information organizations fell for an elaborate hoax on Tuesday that claimed that each one Mattel toys, together with the enduring Barbie doll, can be plastic free by 2030, beginning with a brand new line of decomposable “EcoWarrior” dolls made with natural supplies together with mushrooms, algae and clay.

The marketing campaign, carried out by an activist group that calls itself the Barbie Liberation Group, included a sequence of false information releases and ads purporting to be from the toy big Mattel. The group stated it needed to capitalize on the hype that has surrounded the blockbuster “Barbie” movie, launched final month, and name consideration to the usage of plastic in toys.

In one of many clips, the actor and environmental activist Daryl Hannah strolls alongside a picturesque seaside, the place she plucks a barnacle-encrusted doll from the sand.

“Barbie and I are about the same age, except she will never die,” Ms. Hannah says, saying greater than a billion of the plastic dolls lay deserted in landfills and waterways. One other clip depicts the dolls, modeled after environmental activists together with Greta Thunberg and Ms. Hannah, utilizing bolt cutters to interrupt right into a Shell facility.

In an e mail, Mattel described the marketing campaign as a “hoax” that had “nothing to do with Mattel.” The corporate stated that the activists had additionally created pretend web sites made to look as in the event that they belonged to Mattel. “Those were duplicates — not Mattel actual sites,” it stated.

However some information retailers, together with People, The Washington Instances and MarketWatch, fell for the pretend marketing campaign, publishing articles on the brand new dolls. That appeared to boost questions in regards to the ethics of spreading disinformation within the identify of activism, particularly as People’ belief within the information media is at a near-record low.

By Tuesday afternoon, the websites had eliminated the articles. The Washington Instances additionally issued an editor’s notice acknowledging its mistake.

“The Washington Times has confirmed from Mattel Corp. that the article about new Barbie dolls that appeared here was based on an elaborate media hoax involving spoofed email addresses, a faked news release, doctored images, fictitious quotations and a YouTube video that appears to show actress Daryl Hannah announcing the new product line,” the notice stated. “We have removed the story from our website pending further investigation into the origins of the hoax.”

Not one of the information retailers instantly offered remark by Tuesday night in response to an inquiry from The New York Instances.

These behind the marketing campaign described their actions as satire, relatively than disinformation, noting that they’d all the time deliberate to tell the general public that Mattel had not been behind the announcement. “This is actually the type of action that opposes misinformation and disinformation,” Mike Bonanno, one of many activists, stated by telephone Tuesday.

“What we’re fighting against is half a century of misinformation from the plastics industry and from fossil fuel companies and interests that are trying to convince people that recycling is a viable solution to the plastic waste problem,” he added.

The marketing campaign criticized Mattel’s position in air pollution via its use of plastic in its dolls and different toys. Mattel does plan to curtail its use of plastic, however it stops nicely wanting utterly phasing the fabric out in its dolls.

The corporate introduced final 12 months that it deliberate scale back plastic packaging by 25 % in every product by 2030. It additionally has a purpose of utilizing “100 percent recycled, recyclable, or bio-based plastic materials” in its merchandise and packaging by the identical time.

“Plastic is made with fossil fuels and comprises roughly six percent of global oil consumption,” based on the Massachusetts Institute of Expertise’s Local weather Portal. Most moldable waste, even when it’s meant for recycling, results in landfills or is incinerated, which contributes to local weather change.

The marketing campaign is the second time the activist group has attacked Mattel. In 1993, it purchased “Teen Talk” Barbies and G.I. Joe dolls (made by Hasbro) and swapped the 2 dolls’ voice containers out earlier than changing them on retailer cabinets with the acknowledged intention of calling the general public’s views on gender and violence into query.

This time, the marketing campaign reveals the dolls and kids who play with them throwing tomato soup at Van Gogh work and Molotov cocktails at President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, set to a jingle about “corporate criminal sabotage.”

Ms. Hannah, the face of the marketing campaign, stated that whereas the overwhelming majority of it had been pretend, one component had been actual: Round a decade in the past, Ms. Hannah stated, she discovered a barnacle-encrusted Barbie whereas snorkeling off the coast of Fiji.

“I find in the staghorn coral, while I’m diving, these little Barbie legs sticking out,” Ms. Hannah stated. “She was just going to remain there forever.”

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