On Monday, YouTuber and former NASA engineer Mark Rober posted a video that went viral, garnering more than 46 million hits in just five days.
The video, "Package Thief Versus Glitter Bomb Trap," shows Rober engineering a fake package to leave on his front porch in order to bait would-be delivery box bandits.
The device was a masterwork. Disguised within a matte plastic box, four cellphone cameras are positioned below a mechanically rotating bowl filled with the finest glitter. When the package is jostled and moved outside a previously-defined GPS radius, the cameras turn on and begin recording. Once the package thief lifts the five-sided sheath covering the box, the bowl spins violently, tossing glitter everywhere. As a bonus, a mechanically activated "fart spray" dispenses odor every thirty seconds following the opening of the package.
At the end of the video, Rober showed the recorded reactions of five alleged thieves who had taken the bait box from his front porch. Rober even lent the package to an acquaintance whose footage accounted for two of the five filmed reactions.
On Thursday, Rober tweeted that the two reactions recorded by his acquaintance appear to have been faked:
I removed 1.5 mins of footage from the video since originally uploading. I was presented with information that caused me to doubt the veracity of two of the five reactions in the video. These were reactions that were captured during a two week period while the device was at a house two hours away from where I live. I put a feeler out for people willing to put a package on their porch and this person (who's a friend of a friend) volunteered to help. To compensate them for their time and willingness to risk putting a package on their porch, I offered financial compensation for any successful recoveries of the package.
It appears (and I've since confirmed) in these two cases, the "thieves" were actually acquaintances of the person helping me. From the footage I received from the phones, which intentionally only record at specific times, this wasn't obvious to me. I have since removed those reactions from the original video...
I'm really sorry about this. 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 credibility is sort of shot, but I encourage you to look at the types of videos I've been making for the past seven years. This is my first ever video with some kind of "prank," and like I mentioned in the video, it's pretty removed from my comfort zone. I should have done more. Full stop. 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."
It genuinely works (like all the other things I've built 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. That is totally on me and I will take all necessary steps to make sure it won't happen again.
In addition to apologizing, Rober has indeed removed the footage of the faked reactions and re-uploaded the video to his YouTube channel. Over the last seven years, Rober has amassed a subscriber base of more than 5.5 million, entertaining and educating with fun and fascinating science and engineering-related videos.
The newly-edited version of the video can be seen here (highly recommended):