Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak suing YouTube, Google over Bitcoin scam
Friday - 24/07/2020 10:10
The surviving founder of the iPhone maker is suing Google and YouTube for allegedly profiting off scams using his likeness.
Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak is suing the Google-owned video sharing site YouTube over videos using his likeness to promote Bitcoin scams.
The lawsuit, filed in a California court this week, argues that YouTube is allowing people to use the Apple co-founder’s success and reputation to conduct Bitcoin scams, which it alleges YouTube knows about, promotes, profits off and has the power to stop.
Section 230 largely absolves tech platforms like social media sites from responsibility for the content posted to it by other users, classing them closer to distributors of information (or misinformation) than publishers of it.
Mr Wozniak and 17 people who fell victim to the scams are part of the suit against both YouTube and Google, as well as 20 unidentified individuals (known as they often are in legal cases as “does” as in the plural of a Jane or John Doe).
Twitter recently faced an embarrassing hack where verified public officials and figures with huge followings including Barack Obama, Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk, had their accounts hijacked and used to promote a bitcoin scam.
“We’re embarrassed, we’re disappointed and more than anything we’re sorry,” the social media platform said in an apology issued shortly afterwards.
“In stark contrast, for months now, YouTube has been unapologetically hosting, promoting and directly profiting from similar scams,” the lawsuit alleges.
“YouTube has featured a steady stream of scam videos and promotions that falsely use images and videos of Steve Wozniak and other famous tech entrepreneurs, and that have defrauded YouTube users out of millions of dollars.”
The scam uses images of Mr Wozniak to promote “Bitcoin giveaways”, telling users that if they send an amount of Bitcoin, he’ll double it and send it back.
Bitcoin and other cryptocurrency transactions are irreversible and largely untraceable.
“With full knowledge of this scam, YouTube resisted taking the scam videos down, allowed them to multiply, and contributed to the scam by making them appear legitimate,” the lawsuit alleges.
The lawsuit claims that as well as Mr Wozniak, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, Tesla co-founder Elon Musk, Dell founder Michael Dell, Rich Dad Poor Dad author Robert Kiyosaki, and CEO of cryptocurrency exchange Ripple, Brad Garlinghouse, were all exploited in the videos.
One involving Elon Musk cost YouTube viewers who fell for it more than $US2 million ($A2.81 million).
The lawsuit claims Mr Wozniak has repeatedly tried to get YouTube to do something about the scams, but the platform has been unresponsive.
The plaintiffs also argue YouTube is not exempt from Section 230 because the company’s “ongoing, knowing, and active participation” in the promotion of the videos falls “well outside of the immunity from liability that Section 230 provides”.
They claim YouTube “have improperly refused to act, to warn their users, or to otherwise play a constructive role in stopping this criminal enterprise, and have instead perpetuated and profited from it.
Mr Wozniak and the other plaintiffs are seeking the removal of the scam videos, a court order that YouTube stops “ignoring and delaying” its response to take-down notices and from verifying accounts spreading the scam videos.
It also calls for YouTube to stop recommending the videos to its users, falsely displaying that the videos are live streams with higher viewerships than they actually do, and selling ads or otherwise profiting on the videos.
They also want YouTube to warn users about the scam and use the tools it already has to prevent more of the videos going up.
They also want the money returned to the victims and for Google and YouTube to pay for their costs, and have demanded a trial by jury.