Barbie's maker, Mattel Inc., thought it would be interesting to ask young girls who visited the Barbie.com Web site to vote on what the doll's next career should be. Mattel gave them a choice of architect, anchorwoman, computer engineer, environmentalist and surgeon. All told, more than 600,000 votes were cast during a four-week period this past winter.
The voting was open to anyone, and nobody could vote more than once. But by the end of the first week, a growing flood of adult votes for computer engineer Barbie trumped the popular choice. Female computer engineers who learned about the election launched a viral campaign on the Internet to get out the vote and ensure Barbie would join their ranks.
How did they ensure that nobody could vote more than once? Only allowing one vote per IP address? Requiring registration using an email address, with a confirmation check?
I sincerely hope that the result was not due to a grass roots campaign by female computer engineers across the country. I hope that it was due to a single female computer engineer writing a script to vote 300,000 times, using tor to route the votes to come from different IP origins, and automatically submitting the registration form using throwaway mailinator accounts.