Remember that viral video of the former NASA engineer who got sick and tired of people stealing his packages? He built an impressively high-tech glitter bomb to prank the thieves and even lent the sneaky invention to friends so they could do the same. Well, it turns out that some of the video was faked by his friends. And the creator, Mark Rober, has apologized for the deception.
Rober deleted about a minute and a half from his original YouTube video yesterday, and reuploaded it—something YouTube allows you to do without sacrificing the number of hits a user has accumulated. According to Rober, one of the people to which he gave the glitter bomb had some friends or neighbors pose as thieves on video.
“It appears in these two cases, the ‘thieves’ were actually acquaintances of the person helping me,” Rober tweeted. “From the footage I received from the phones which only record at specific times, this wasn’t clear to me. I have since removed those reactions from the original video (originally 6:26-7:59).”
Gizmodo received an email tip that some of the story didn’t add up, and we took a look at a confusing (yet compelling) Imgur library dissecting the most suspicious parts. But even before that tip came in, we reached out to Rober, who never responded to our request for comment. And NordVPN, which sponsored the original video, stopped responding after we sent a spokesperson questions asking whether parts of the video were staged.
You can watch the portion that was deleted from Rober’s original video here.
It’s still an impressive invention, and if you believe Rober, most of the video is still legit. But Rober understands why people may not trust him anymore.
“I’m really sorry about this,“ Rober tweeted. “Ultimately, I am responsible for the content that goes on my channel and I should have done more here. I can vouch that the reactions were genuine when the package was taken from my house. Having said that, I know my credibly [sic] is sort of shot but I encourage you to look at the types of videos I’ve been making for the past 7 years.”
“I’m especially gutted because so much thought, time, money and effort went into building the device and I hope this doesn’t just taint the entire effort as ‘fake.’” Rober continued. “It genuinely works (like all the other things I’ve build on my channel) and we’ve made all the code and build info public. Again, I’m sorry for putting something up on my channel that was misleading.”
No, this isn’t the most pressing issue of the day. The stock market is tanking, drones are shutting down airports, and the secretary of defense has resigned while more or less saying in his resignation letter that the president of the United States is a threat to national security.
But it’s still important to correct the record, especially for a video we helped spread. (We still think the tech is cool though!) Even if it’s just a glitter bomb. It just goes to show you that the most skeptical eye is often the correct one.
If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. And everything can always get worse—all great lessons as we start the new year out with a bang.