Several news organisations, including People, The Washington Times and MarketWatch, fell for an elaborate hoax claiming that all Mattel toys, including Barbie, would be plastic-free by 2030, beginning with a new line of MyCelia EcoWarrior Barbies.
The new range of Barbie dolls was claimed to be compostable and made with organic materials, including mushrooms, algae and clay.
Carried out by an activist group called the Barbie Liberation Organization, the campaign included a series of false news releases and advertisements purporting to be from toy giant Mattel.
The antic came from longtime political activists the Yes Men – Igor Vamos and Jacques Servin, and Daryl Hannah, who starred in the fake commercial which was revealed to be a hoax last Tuesday.
“Barbie and I are about the same age, except she will never die,” shared Hannah in the video clip, saying more than a billion plastic dolls lay abandoned in landfills and waterways.
The campaign criticised the toy maker’s role in pollution by still using plastic in its dolls and other toys, and the group said it wanted to capitalise on the hype built by the blockbuster Barbie movie released last month.
By Tuesday afternoon, the news outlets had removed the articles.
In an email to the New York Times, Mattel described the campaign as a “hoax” with “nothing to do with Mattel.”
The company said that the activists had also created fake websites that looked like they belonged to Mattel.
“Those were duplicates – not Mattel actual sites,” it said.
Hannah, however, said that while most of the content had been fake, one element remains real: Ten years ago, she found a barnacle-encrusted Barbie while snorkelling off the coast of Fiji.
“I find in the staghorn coral, while I’m diving, these little Barbie legs sticking out,” she recalled.
“She was just going to remain there forever.”
Last year, Mattel announced that it plans to reduce plastic packaging by 25 per cent in each product by 2030. It also aims to simultaneously use “100 per cent recycled, recyclable, or bio-based plastic materials” in its products and packaging in the near future.
Several users on Reddit commented on the campaign prior to discovering it was a hoax, stating:
“It won’t be flour that starts the zombie apocalypse, but Barbies.”
“Can you eat it?”
“This is amazing. I hope other companies follow suit.”
“Barbie and mushrooms are a power couple!”
“A fully biodegradable Barbie. Who doesn’t want that?”
Another brand that also fell victim to a hoax was Adidas, which was falsely reported to have named Cambodian former garment worker and trade union leader Vay Ya Nak Phoan as Co-CEO.