'Sick' plastic surgery app for children pulled

Campaigners force Apple to remove 'shameless' app targeted at nine-year-olds

LAST UPDATED AT 11:52 ON Wed 15 Jan 2014

Apple has removed an “incredibly damaging” app that encouraged young children to perform plastic surgery on an image of Barbie after a Twitter campaign led by the Everyday Sexism Project.

The group, which aims to highlight examples of routine gender inequality, rallied its Twitter followers to call for the app to be withdrawn.

Thousands of people joined the campaign, which eventually led to the quiet removal of the game from both iTunes and Google Play stores.

However, a similar game made by a different developer is still available on Google’s Play app store.

The game invites users to “fix” the “unfortunate” girl’s “problem areas”. Players can perform liposuction on Barbie and use needles and scalpels to make her ‘slim and beautiful.’

Critics argued that the developers deliberately used child-friendly images to attract young children.

“We know that children as young as five are showing evidence of body dysmorphia,” one plastic surgeon told The Times. “In a culture where there’s so much pressure on young people [to be beautiful] I think it’s beyond bad taste, it’s actively harmful to children.”

The game, called Plastic Surgery & Plastic Doctor & Plastic Hospital Office for Barbie, was given an age rating of nine by Apple due to “infrequent/mild realistic violence”.

The app was available for download free of charge from iTunes. The Daily Mail reports that between 500,000 and 1 million people downloaded the app.

Laura Bates, founder of the Everyday Sexism project, called the app "incredibly damaging" to the body image held by young girls, The Guardian reports.

"We are calling on iTunes and Google Play to reconsider whether these kind of things are what their platforms want to be offering to children."

A Google spokesman said: ‘We don’t comment on individual apps, but will remove apps that breach our guidelines.’

The app developer and Apple have yet to comment on the matter. · 

For further concise, balanced comment and analysis on the week's news, try The Week magazine. Subscribe today and get 6 issues completely free.