Don't miss



#THE 51%

One is not enough: China to encourage people to have more children

Read more


A Pulitzer Prize-winning 'Trajectory': Richard Russo on writing small town America

Read more

#TECH 24

Hacking the body, and the mind: The future of connected humanity

Read more


Colombia: Cursed by coca in Catatumbo

Read more


Britain’s Labour Party: No home for Jews?

Read more


Outfoxed: The mystery of the ‘Croydon Cat Killer’

Read more


Backstage at the Moulin Rouge

Read more


Video: Hero or dictator? Ugandans divided over Idi Amin Dada’s legacy

Read more


Sobel Aziz Ngom: Mentoring the next generation of African leaders and entrepreneurs

Read more


Germans balk at new ‘Soviet snitch’ Barbie

© Video screen grab, YouTube

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2015-02-24

Toy maker Mattel has unveiled a new Barbie that talks and remembers kids’ unique preferences. "Hello Barbie" is being marketed as a cutting-edge toy that builds relationships, but one German magazine says she is more like a Soviet-era informant.

The latest incarnation of Mattel’s flagship doll was curtly re-baptised “Barbie IM” by German weekly Stern. The initials stand for “Inoffizieller Mitarbeiter”, informants who worked for East Germany’s infamous secret police, the Stasi, during the Cold War.

The toy and game manufacturer highlights Hello Barbie’s voice recognition and wifi capabilities, which allow the company to store information and use it to simulate real conversations between doll and child.

While impressed with this use of new technology, Stern saw it as problematic.

“As if the idea of an IM Barbie was not alarming enough, Mattel also wants to save children’s personal tastes. Purportedly this is so [Hello Barbie] can provide appropriate responses when prompted. But we can easily imagine the value that a database that collects children’s tastes has for a toy manufacturing company,” the magazine wrote in an article published last week.

“Maybe it's only a matter of time before Hello Barbie starts asking for a pony,” Stern quipped.

"Hello Barbie" is intended for the US, not German, market, but Stern’s harsh comparisons to Soviet intelligence services could translate into bad publicity for what is perhaps the world’s most famous doll.

It wouldn’t be a first. Barbie has been the subject of controversy in the past, often accused of conveying sexist ideas.

"Teen Talk Barbie" was blasted in 1992 for mainly inciting girls to shop and for uttering the phrase “Math class is tough!". Barbie Video Girl, who appeared in 2010 equipped with a camera and screen, also raised concern among authorities who feared the images could be exploited by paedophiles.


Date created : 2015-02-24