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Elaborate Hoax Claims Mattel Toys Will Be Plastic-Free by 2030

Several news organizations fell for an elaborate hoax on Tuesday that claimed that all Mattel toys, including the iconic Barbie doll, would be plastic-free by 2030, starting with a new line of decomposable “EcoWarrior” dolls made with organic materials including mushrooms, algae, and clay.

The campaign, carried out by an activist group that calls itself the Barbie Liberation Organization, included a series of false news releases and advertisements purporting to be from the toy giant Mattel. The group said it wanted to capitalize on the hype that has surrounded the blockbuster “Barbie” film, released last month, and call attention to the use of plastic in toys.

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In one of the clips, the actor and environmental activist Daryl Hannah strolls along a picturesque beach, where she plucks a barnacle-encrusted doll from the sand.

Accurate Information is Crucial for Ethical Reporting

“Barbie and I are about the same age, except she will never die,” Ms. Hannah says, saying more than a billion of the plastic dolls lay abandoned in landfills and waterways. Another clip depicts the dolls, modeled after environmental activists including Greta Thunberg and Ms. Hannah, using bolt cutters to break into a Shell facility.

News outlets like People, The Washington Times, and MarketWatch fell for the fake campaign, publishing articles on the new dolls. This situation raises questions about the ethics of spreading disinformation in the name of activism, especially when public trust in the news media is low.

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By Tuesday afternoon, the sites had removed the articles, and The Washington Times issued an editor’s note acknowledging its mistake. None of the news outlets immediately provided a comment in response to an inquiry from The New York Times.

Those behind the campaign described their actions as satire rather than disinformation. They planned to inform the public that Mattel had not been behind the announcement. According to Mike Bonanno, one of the activists, their intention is to oppose misinformation and disinformation perpetuated by the plastics industry and fossil fuel companies.

Mattel’s Role in Plastic Pollution and Its Efforts Towards Sustainability

The campaign criticized Mattel’s role in pollution through its use of plastic in its dolls and other toys. Although Mattel plans to reduce its use of plastic, it falls short of completely phasing out the material in its dolls.

The company announced last year its goal to reduce plastic packaging by 25 percent in each product and use “100 percent recycled, recyclable, or bio-based plastic materials” in its products and packaging by 2030.

According to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Climate Portal, plastic is made with fossil fuels and constitutes roughly six percent of global oil consumption. Most plastic waste, even if intended for recycling, ends up in landfills or is incinerated, contributing to climate change.

This campaign is not the first time the activist group has targeted Mattel. In 1993, they bought “Teen Talk” Barbies and G.I. Joe dolls (made by Hasbro), swapped the two dolls’ voice boxes, and placed them back on store shelves to question public views on gender and violence.

The current campaign features the dolls and children throwing tomato soup at Van Gogh paintings and Molotov cocktails at President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, all set to a jingle about “corporate criminal sabotage.”

Ms. Hannah, the face of the campaign, revealed that she found a barnacle-encrusted Barbie while snorkeling off the coast of Fiji a decade ago. This incident highlights the concern of plastic pollution plaguing natural environments.

AI legalese decoder can play a role in analyzing the language and content of the activist group’s campaigns and communications. By identifying satire versus disinformation, it helps news outlets report accurately and ethically while combating misinformation.

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