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Fake News: Barbie Is Not — I Repeat Not — Going Plastic Free

The campaign was orchestrated by the Barbie Liberation Organization, not Mattel, but it fooled several media outlets.

Norbert Sparrow

August 2, 2023

A barrage of news releases and videos seeming to come from Mattel trumpeting that all of its toys, including Barbie, would be plastic free by 2030 has turned out to be a hoax. The campaign was conducted by the so-called Barbie Liberation Organization — yep, that's BLO for short — seeking to capitalize on the blockbuster Barbie movie to call attention to the excessive use of plastic in toys, the New York Times reported today. Several media outlets, including People and the Washington Times, fell for the fake campaign before the hoax was revealed. The media sites have now removed the articles, the Times added.

One of the most effective parts of the campaign is a video featuring Darryl Hannah, where the actor recounts a time when she was snorkeling in “one of the most pristine and protected parts of the Pacific” and found an “ancient barnacle and seaweed encrusted Barbie doll.” She goes on to say that she and Barbie are about the same age, “except that she will never die.”

The video has excellent production values and is utterly believable, which explains why some media outlets carried the story. (That doesn’t absolve them of not doing the appropriate fact checking, but that’s a separate conversation.)

Another clip depicts the dolls, modeled after environmental activists including Greta Thunberg and Hannah, using bolt cutters to break into a Shell facility.

While the campaign was fake, one element is based on fact, according to Hannah. Around a decade ago, she said she did indeed find a barnacle-encrusted Barbie while snorkeling off the coast of Fiji, reported the Times.

About the Author(s)

Norbert Sparrow

Editor in chief of PlasticsToday since 2015, Norbert Sparrow has more than 30 years of editorial experience in business-to-business media. He studied journalism at the Centre Universitaire d'Etudes du Journalisme in Strasbourg, France, where he earned a master's degree. Reach him at [email protected].

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