A number of information organizations fell for an elaborate hoax on Tuesday that claimed that every one Mattel toys, together with the long-lasting Barbie doll, could 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 large Mattel. The group mentioned it wished to capitalize on the hype that has surrounded the blockbuster “Barbie” movie, launched final month, and name consideration to using 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 identical age, besides she’s going to by no means 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 mentioned that the activists had additionally created faux web sites made to look as in the event that they belonged to Mattel. “These have been duplicates — not Mattel precise websites,” it mentioned.
However some information retailers, together with People, The Washington Occasions and MarketWatch, fell for the faux marketing campaign, publishing articles on the brand new dolls. That appeared to lift questions concerning the ethics of spreading disinformation within the title 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 Occasions additionally issued an editor’s notice acknowledging its mistake.
“The Washington Occasions has confirmed from Mattel Corp. that the article about new Barbie dolls that appeared right here was based mostly on an elaborate media hoax involving spoofed e mail addresses, a faked information launch, doctored pictures, fictitious quotations and a YouTube video that seems to indicate actress Daryl Hannah asserting the brand new product line,” the notice mentioned. “We now have eliminated the story from our web site pending additional investigation into the origins of the hoax.”
Not one of the information retailers instantly supplied remark by Tuesday night in response to an inquiry from The New York Occasions.
These behind the marketing campaign described their actions as satire, reasonably than disinformation, noting that that they had at all times deliberate to tell the general public that Mattel had not been behind the announcement. “That is truly the kind of motion that opposes misinformation and disinformation,” Mike Bonanno, one of many activists, mentioned by cellphone Tuesday.
“What we’re preventing in opposition to is half a century of misinformation from the plastics trade and from fossil gasoline corporations and pursuits which might be making an attempt to persuade people who recycling is a viable answer to the plastic waste downside,” he added.
The marketing campaign criticized Mattel’s position in air pollution by way of its use of plastic in its dolls and different toys. Mattel does plan to curtail its use of plastic, but it surely stops effectively wanting utterly phasing the fabric out in its dolls.
The corporate introduced final yr that it deliberate cut back plastic packaging by 25 % in every product by 2030. It additionally has a purpose of utilizing “100% recycled, recyclable, or bio-based plastic supplies” in its merchandise and packaging by the identical time.
“Plastic is made with fossil fuels and includes roughly six % of world oil consumption,” in keeping with a the Massachusetts Institute of Know-how’s Local weather Portal. Most moldable waste, even when it’s meant for recycling, leads to 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 Speak” Barbies and G.I. Joe dolls (made by Hasbro) and swapped the 2 dolls’ voice bins out earlier than changing them on retailer cabinets with the acknowledged purpose of calling the general public’s views on gender and violence into query.
This time, the marketing campaign reveals the dolls and youngsters 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 “company legal sabotage.”
Ms. Hannah, the face of the marketing campaign, mentioned that whereas the overwhelming majority of it had been faux, one component had been actual: Round a decade in the past, Ms. Hannah mentioned, she discovered a barnacle-encrusted Barbie whereas snorkeling off the coast of Fiji.
“I discover within the staghorn coral, whereas I’m diving, these little Barbie legs protruding,” Ms. Hannah mentioned. “She was simply going to stay there eternally.”