Meta found a leaker who shared details about its unannounced VR headsets with a YouTuber

February 10th, 2023 / By: / Published in:

Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

A version of this story was first published in yesterday’s edition of my Command Line newsletter.

A monthslong leak investigation by Meta has uncovered the source behind renders of the company’s unannounced VR headsets that were published last year by a YouTuber named Brad Lynch.

Meta CTO Andrew Bosworth shared the news earlier this week with employees in an internal post seen by The Verge. He said Meta has cut ties with the leaker, who I’m told was a third-party contractor and asked Lynch for revenue share from the YouTube ads running against his videos. In his post to Meta employees, Bosworth confirmed that the unnamed leaker was paid a small sum for sharing the materials with Lynch.

Creators like Lynch aren’t beholden to the rules of newsrooms like The Verge, which doesn’t allow its reporters to send or receive payment in exchange for information. When I asked Lynch for comment, he didn’t deny that he shared money from the ads on his YouTube channel with his source.

“They might have asked because I wasn’t willing to give much money up front,” he said. “I’m just one guy who loves VR and just enjoys talking with industry friends and reporting what I hear. And I’m definitely not getting rich from it.” A spokesperson for Meta declined to comment.

Lynch, whose “SadlyItsBradley” YouTube channel has 114,000 subscribers, says his videos as designed to “showcase what I believe is the best in Virtual Reality, Mixed Reality, and Augmented Reality.” Last year, he published a video featuring detailed CAD drawings and specs for the Meta Quest Pro months before it was announced. Another one of his videos from September of last year claims to show drawings and specs for the Quest 3, Meta’s next consumer headset expected later this year.

Companies rarely publicize the firing of leakers. When they do, it is usually to make an example of the culprit and signal how seriously they take the offense. Meta sharing the outcome of this investigation with employees suggests that Lynch’s videos from last year caused quite a problem for the company, even though they garnered little coverage from traditional news outlets at the time. Meta has said little about how its next Quest 3 will work beyond confirming that it’s coming later this year.

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