It’s Pornographer Barbie!

Hi Readers — Thanks to all of you who sent in the wackiest “What If?” worry of the weekend: News reports that the new Video Barbie — a Barbie with a built-in video camera — “could” be used by child pornographers.  The key word for us is “could.” The key words for the media? “Barbie,” “child porn,”  “danger,” and, of course, “parents.” The whole thing was just a big Christmas gift for the news, which jumped all over the story.

What happened was this: The FBI, which clearly has too much time on its hands, sent out a warning to law enforcement officials saying that though there have been NO reports of Video Barbie being used to make kiddie porn, it could be, right? WHAT IF it was? Then we’d all be sorry!

The FBI warning was accidentally also sent to the press, which is always thrilled to remind parents that creeps are out to violate their kids. And lickety split, Barbie was added to the growing list of newly terrifying, child-threatening items. (A list, by the way, that also now includes Horsie-on-a-Stick.)

Anyway, I’d feel bad for Mattel, except the Video Barbies seem to be flying off the shelves. (The perfect gift for that child pornographer on your list!)

Now, coincidentally, I wrote a column about Video Barbie when it — she? –was introduced a few months ago and I had a different take on the toy.  I was psyched that mastering technology (movie making, editing, sharing) was now a normal part of girlhood, same as playing house and dressing Barbie in a gown.

So there we have it: Two different takes on a toy, one celebratory, one speculative, sick and salacious. I think you know which one sells.

44 Responses

  1. You’d think if somebody was going to make that kind of video anyway, that a regular old video camera would do. Show me a little girl that doesn’t like showing off in front of a camera!

    I guess we’ll have to ban all video (and still) cameras now. After all, You Can Never Be Too Careful!

  2. I read this and think we’re getting closer to living in a “Minority Report” world every day.

  3. Seriously, if your first thought when seeing something like this is, “OMG, pervs could use it to make Teh Kiddie Pr0nz!!!11”

  4. Seriously, if your first thought when seeing something like this is, “OMG, pervs could use it to make Teh Kiddie Pr0nz!!!11”, get some help.

  5. woah! nice find. Glad law enforcement is spending their time coming up with insane ideas instead of solving actual crime…

  6. Its Video-Voyeur Barbie, complete with trenchcoat, candy, a puppy, and the Malibu rusty van accessories. Kidnapping Ken doll sold separately.

    I had my own little take on this here if you’re interested:

    http://once-fallen.blogspot.com/2010/12/do-not-buy-these-toys-to-protect-our.html

  7. This reminds me of a lot of a story I heard about Furbies a while back: that they could be used as spy tools to record voices. The problem with that is that the Furbies could not even recognize voices, just sound levels.

    I suspect it’s the same with this Barbie. Okay, we know it can store video that can be transferred to a PC (what on earth kind of video-capable camera can’t? My cell phone can do that!) Now, how can that video be sent? If it can’t be sent wirelessly somehow, then why are they worried? Because this thing is a Barbie, I suspect it’s just transfer by typical USB or Mini-USB cable (the same thing everything else these days uses).

    Even if you can transfer wirelessly, 100% of the time, that transfer has to be authorized by both ends, used with a special piece of software, or both, although people working on Hollywood science think that any malicious pedophile could rig a Barbie so that he could control it, that is completely ridiculous and very difficult if you don’t have access to that exact Barbie and stay within range long enough to transfer the video.

    Lastly (this actually works with most of these harebrained pedophile schemes that non-pedophiles think up), who would go through all that effort? Seriously, you have the internet and millions of horny teens who will ill-advisedly put up pictures of themselves that are definitely within a pedophile’s range of interest. Using the internet will be a much easier and quicker way to get the satisfaction that will come from a video. Does anyone not think of any of this?

  8. From actually reading the specs of the doll, it appears it can record up to half an hour of video. However, it appears you’d have to run the video part manually. My guess is some tech UN-savvy FBI rookie came to this conclusion– probably the one who gets his kid to set the clock on his VCR at home. What about video girl Barbie could not be done with a spycam or a regular cam?

  9. On the plus side, I so far haven’t read a single blog post or comment responding to this “news” story that hasn’t been extremely skeptical about Barbie’s potential as a kiddie-porn tool.

  10. Paranoia at it’s best.

  11. @Blake – Gotta disagree on the last part of your comment: the kind of pedophile that likes little girls has no interest in horny teens. We can agree that this report is ridiculous without forgetting that there are some seriously screwed up individuals out there.

    I just done understand how anyone can imagine this doll to be a threat. Frankly, a creepy guy in a white van holding a cell phone camera or even a camcorder is STILL going to be less conspicuous than the same guy peering at children through a Barbie doll. How does a doll-camera provide any kind of an advantage to child preditors?

  12. The first article I read… The FBI wasn’t suggesting we be worried about it, just recognizing another piece of technology to add to the list for the eventual search warrant. It made sense to me. Their job is to know what to look for when they go into a home looking for proof. Finding any possibility that needs to be spelled out on paper before the approach makes absolute sense. The news blowing up and trying to terrify people, doesn’t.

  13. It use to be that only sick minded people would see a toy like Video Barbie and think of it as a way to make kiddie porn. It wouldn’t have occured to anyone else prior to the medias current hyper focus on all that is pedo/vile/shocking.

    Has it never occured to the FBI (etc) that stories like this, extreme fear of strangers,over the top paraniod news, crazy laws and sex offender lists with sexting teens on them is CAUSING the increase in mental association of “be around kids = PERVERT!”, while encouraging normal people to think “kids = sex”???

    Normal teens and adults DO NOT THINK “SEX” when they see, or talk to, kids. Period. The two things are unrelated to most people.

    Unfortunatley,when these same people hear about “the threat. of pedos” daily, they DO start to make that association, even if only to protect themselves, or their kids!

    Example- When taking very innocent nude pics of my adorable new baby, I had the scary thought “WHAT IF someone sees this and thinks I’m a pervert,and gets me arrested?”.Other parents might instead think the ever popular “What if a pedo sees this pic and it turns him/her on?” Either way, pedos are intruding on NORMAL interactions, making a diaper change or game of frisbee seem threatening and lurid. Talk about destryoing innocence!

    WHY WHY WHY WHY are normal parents and others thinking so much about pedos, sex, and their kids nowadays? Its the FIRST thing that comes to many peoples minds now, when formerly innocent topics come up. This should NOT be happening!

    It sickens me that I even HAD that thought.And I know MY parents didn’t have those thoughts when they snapped tons of naked baby pics of my brother and I- AND put them in our baby books for everyone to see!

    The “worst first, what if’s” are bad enough, but adding the “everyones a PEDO, esp MEN” meme really spreads sick thinking to all of society.

    I am NOT saying that normal people are turning into pedos because of this. I’m just pointing out that all the hyper focus on pedos has the unintended consequence of linking “sex” and “kids” in peoples minds. And this IS SICK, sad and disheartening.

  14. In other news, a common hammer could be used to aerate the skull of an unsuspecting child, and a screwdriver could be thrust into the neck of another. Also, a pillow can be used as a suffocation device.

  15. I didn’t see a child danger issue with the video barbie but I didn’t buy one for my daughter because I thought it was just creepy that she had a big hole in her chest. The most that would have been likely to be caught on a barbie cam in our house would be the cats chewing on Barbie’s hair or my daughter yelling at her brothers for touching her barbies.

  16. Eh, right. Maybe I’m naive, but why worry over Barbie and leave regular cams un-dangerfied?

  17. Well, here’s my latest “porno” work, using a real camera (a digital SLR, a Nikon D60):

    Cameras aren’t dangerous, wrong attitudes are dangerous. That would include pedophiles, and it would also include any insinuation that any form of camera-usage–Barbie doll camera or a “real” one–is potentially perverted.

    Give me a break.

    LRH

  18. Hey Larry,
    Adorable!!! And uber salacious…. NOT!!!

  19. Is a Barbie with a rudimentary built-in video camera really the most sophisticated and innovative tool available to perverts and pedophiles?

    Somehow I doubt it.

  20. staceyjw: About 25 years ago, there was a similar moral panic about kids, but back then it involved Satanic cults. In his book Satanic Panic sociologist Jeffrey Victor suggested that much of the panic was a “crystallization” of vague and general (and, given changes in the economy then, at least somewhat realistic) fears that parents had about their kids’ futures: would they be able to realize the American Dream? Would they be worse off than their parents?

    I suspect something like this is going on with the pedo hysteria, as is the perpetual need to have enemies (another thing Victor touched on). Another factor is probably the increased visibility of gay people, since there’s an old blood libel against us that we molest kids in order to “recruit” them. There’s also the blood libel that black men ravage white girls.

    The Internet is still a new experience to a lot of people (it’s easy to forget that it’s only been available to the general public for 14 years) and that makes it scary. And the record companies and movie studios have a vested interest in making people think the internet is so dangerous that it has to be heavily regulated; a lot of anti-porn laws are really anti-piracy laws in sheep’s clothing.

    There are also still lingering effects of the daycare-molestation panics (McMartin, et.al.) and the general increased awareness of sexual abuse (not a bad thing in itself, but it’s often focused on the least likely scenarios). John Walsh’s tireless crusade has also been a factor (kidnapping is now seen by most parents as the single biggest threat to their children’s safety) (incidentally, there’s no actual evidence that Adam’s abduction/murder was a sex crime, just his father’s perseverative insistence that it was).

    A more cynical view is that decades of research have shown that when kids who grow up poor rise out of poverty, it’s usually because a non-related adult has taken a real interest in them and mentored them. If people immediately think “grooming” in such a situation, it cuts off an avenue of social mobility, which some people, while never admitting to it publicly, might consider a Good Thing.

    Along the same lines, getting people scared about their children is a time-honored way of getting them to accept authoritarian measures that they’d otherwise resist.

  21. Dear FBI:

    Please stop scaring people for no reason. I know it’s a tough economy, but I doubt there’s any lack of real crime for you to solve.

  22. As a parent, and former Barbie owner, I would be much more worried about video Barbie taking a swim in the bathtub and getting destroyed than I would worry about it being used for nefarious purposes.

    Everyone: Turn off the TV. Step away from the news websites. Switch to classical vs. talk radio. And RELAX. The world is not ending tomorrow, and ravening hordes of psychos are not marching down the streets to snatch up the innocents.

  23. BMS Right on.And the thing is this–doing what you suggest is not, as some will definitely call it, “going into isolation” and “hiding from reality.” Not at all. Almost all the TV I watch is from DVDs I choose–seriously, we get no broadcast TV at our location & haven’t bothered with satellite TV etc–and yet, compared to my wife’s parents, who watch TONS of TV, I still know what the latest news is as much as they do, but since I’m READING, and it doesn’t have that “souped up drama” tone to it, and I can easily critique as I read, I’m spared all the “world is ending” hoopla.

    That’s funny isn’t it–how some people sometimes think I couldn’t possibly know what the latest news is since I only watch DVDs, and yet I’m as aware as they & others are–but without being subject to any of the “fear hoopla.” Ha ha ha! Sorry, but I do think it’s funny.

    LRH

  24. I was outraged when I saw this on the news yesterday. Geraldo Rivera do a whole section on this “frieghting” toy. After a long discussion as an after thought they mentioned that there have been not reported incidence. The discussion got really weird but then one of the guests pointed out that if the Barbie happened to be in the parents room they might unknowingly be making pornographic movies for thier children. Does it get any sicker than that? Who thinks of this stuff.

    I was also greatly offended that again the implication was that all men are potential peddifiles.

    Will sanity ever return to this country?

  25. OMG…Lenore, I went to the “Horsie-on-a-stick” link that you had there and I MUST comment on two of the other toys identified.

    Classic Super Bounce Pogo Stick. Okay, bad welds would be a reason for recall but not because they pose “fall and laceration hazards to users.” Is it just me, or don’t fully functional Pogo Sticks pose the same hazard? As do bicycles, roller skates/blades, tree climbing, walking, running, LIVING….

    And then the “Bathtub Sub.” It can “suck up loose skin, posing laceration hazard to children.” Clearly not the toy you want to buy for the toddler who has recently undergone stomach banding and extreme weight loss. Loose skin? On a child? Really?

    Thanks for sending me another dose of WTH???

  26. Video barbie is SCARY.

    And, yeah, even if it is used to create child porn, it is not CAUSING the person to choose to engage in abusing a child and video taping it. They would do that anyway, with or without video barbie.

  27. Ohfercryinoutloud. Horsie on a Stick:

    “Hazard: Reins on horse-on-a-stick toy’s bridle are long enough to form a loop around a child’s head and neck, posing a strangulation hazard to young children.

    Remedy: Consumers should immediately remove or cut the reins to eliminate the hazard. Consumers can contact Big Ideas Marketing for instructions on how to remove the reins.”

    Pentamom’s remedy: parents should tell child not to wrap reins around neck. Parents should not give toy to child not old enough to listen. Parents should confiscate toy from child who is old enough to listen, but does not.

  28. LOL! I don’t care how anyone looks at this, but it’s one the most ridiculous thing I’ve heard of. It doesn’t surprise me, but it does irate me. What IF, you NEVER know, it’s POSSIBLE. You can apply that reasoning to pretty much EVERYTHING. Yes, some have solid validity, ie. not wearing seat belts in the car. Then there are those like this Barbie Cam. Only the perverted can think of such things. As some mentioned, you don’t need a Barbie Cam to make videos. So why make such a claim with this toy? Should we ban all forms of video cameras then? After all, these can be used just as easily as a Barbie Cam. Bunch of paranoid, delusional, and perverted freaks.

    @BMS: I’ll add to that…get some common sense.😉

  29. As soon as I read the title of this post, I thought, “Well, everyone needs a career they enjoy.”

    LOL

  30. Who’s bright idea was it to put a camera in Barbie, anyway? Seriously, what did they think it’d be good for? Barbie’s view of the dollhouse? From the pic, it looks like the camera eye is in her chest. WTF?

    Child porn potential (or lack thereof) aside (because that’s just so much of a leap it’s not even worth addressing), I think it’s just a dumb idea meant to boost holiday sales.

  31. I would never ever let me children even HAVE a Barbie. A dear friend almost choked to death from chewing on a Barbie doll. Thank god we got to him in time, imagine how horrified his 7 year old daughter would have been to come home and find daddy on the floor, dead with Barbies head in his mouth! (just kidding, but it COULD have happened, right??)

  32. @Larry: I also don’t have cable, or satellite, or even a TV for that matter. We have a tuner, if we care (can’t remember the last time I used it) and we watch DVDs using the computer monitor. I read our hometown newspaper weekly. Occasionally I will pick up a paper someone else left on the train. But I don’t really follow the news at all. And somehow, I still heard what I needed to about the elections last month, I heard that the miners in south America got rescued (without having to turn their plight into a blow by blow for me to gawp at), etc. The stuff I don’t know about clearly doesn’t have any dire consequences for me – I’m still alive, martians haven’t invaded, the kids haven’t exploded.

    We somehow got the notion that being ‘informed’ means ‘letting the media fill our heads with crap 24/7 with no filter’. I don’t need to know about 10000 possible hazards. I have my hands full dealing with the real hazards, such as the chance that I will fall down the stairs after tripping over a lego creation (very high probability in my house).

  33. Hah, stick horse is a strangulation hazard.

    That would be hilarious in The Onion.

    As an actual news release, it means we are in serious trouble.

    Look, I am happy that there’s a few hundred or thousand people globally who are still sane. But the 6 billion that have gone insane are greatly worrisome to me. It has become like a Zombie infection. There are just a few of us left that don’t have the Crazy Brain Fever.

  34. Hah, stick horse is a strangulation hazard. That would be hilarious in The Onion.

    As an actual news release, it means we are in serious trouble. I am happy that there’s a few thousand people globally who are still sane. But the 6 billion that have gone insane are greatly worrisome to me. It has become like a Zombie infection. There are just a few of us left that don’t have the Zombie Brain Fever.

  35. Arg. First post didn’t show up, then it said duplicate post, so I changed it. Then both showed up.

  36. The only “porn” this toy is likely to record is close-ups of another doll’s plastic anatomy as the doll’s owner makes them “do sex” by whacking them vigorously together. After which the camera is broken. Problem solved.

  37. But the 6 billion that have gone insane are greatly worrisome to me. It has become like a Zombie infection. There are just a few of us left that don’t have the Zombie Brain Fever.

    Any dolt with half a brain
    Can see that humankind has gone insane
    To the point where I don’t know
    If I’ll upset the status quo
    If I throw poison in the water main….

  38. And before anybody wonders, I’m only quoting Dr. Horrible there.

  39. oh wow. i bet those teddy cams were used for pornography as well.

  40. Guys, calm down! The FBI was NOT issuing a warning to parents! The notice was to LAW ENFORCEMENT, telling them that if they’re looking for kiddie-porn accouterments — you know, gathering evidence to book a suspected creep — that they should look for Video Barbie as well as normal webcams and the like.

    THAT’S ALL. It’s not supposed to be a scare tactic or a consumer warning. This was totally reasonable and NOT an example of overprotective agencies.

  41. As an aside, my toddler just finally started understanding pull toys to pull behind him– because by the time he could walk in order to pull them, the strings were too short (12″) for the toy to roll when he held the string! Don’t tell the consumer product commission but we tied on some more string.

  42. @Larry and BMS
    I even DO have satellite! And Netflix! But I don’t watch news, and I don’t often let the kid watch any kid TV on which there are commercials geared toward kids. Even PBS is annoying me here, as there are a bazillion commercials for Chuckie Cheese, Where a Kid Can Be a Kid. Oh gag me! So, he even got cut off from PBS for a while, when I felt as though if I heard, “Gramma! Let’s go to Chuckie Cheese! I am a kid, and I can BE a kid there!” one. more. time. I would literally exploded. Plus, we can netflix or go to pbs.com for the shows. But, ya’ know, competition for the computer… not always desirable.
    I mostly got the satellite because I am stuck home this winter on some pretty damn strong medication which makes me take-to-my-bed sick, and dammit, I want to watch mindless crap like House Hunters and Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. I have no appetite, so triple-D lets me dream, and have a sweet little fantasy life of diners along Route 66.
    The minute this treatment is over, buh-bye stupid satellite! But really… I read news on my computer from much better sources than The Today Show. Not a tough task. If I want useful news on TV, well, I’ve got the Daily Show and Colbert!

    And @Uly,
    Thanks for Dr. Horrible! Yay!

  43. Clothdragon and Powers apparently read the same things I do. The FBI was only telling enforcement officers to collect the dolls if they are found when searching for evidence, NOT that parents have any reason to be concerned. It’s unfortunate that the information also made it to the press, since the media spun it into a sensational story that had nothing to do with the intention of the information.

    I do not agree with the media’s handling of this at all, but I want to make it clear that I think the FBI was doing its job by letting officers know about yet another video device that they may not have been aware of.

    And as for Barbies, my daughter just got a creepy one where you can swap the heads (on purpose–we always pulled them off when I was a kid anyway, but you couldn’t put them back on). I wouldn’t fear a video Barbie, but this head swapping thing will probably give me weird dreams. Ick.

  44. […] Less Creepy than “J. Edgar Barbie”: With Christmas gearing up, the FBI warned that “Video Barbie” could be used by child pornographers — even though, so far, it has never, ever seen this […]

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