On July 21, co-founder of Apple Steve Wozniak filed a lawsuit against the media giant YouTube for allowing bitcoin giveaway scams that use his name to go unpunished on the platform. Materials using his likeness have been thriving on the site for the last 2 years, with YouTube taking down some of them but not taking actions to prevent the appearance of new such promotions.
In the complaint, the suit attached screenshots and videos used to untruthfully inform viewers that he is hosting a live BTC giveaway event, “convincing” them to transfer their digital assets with the promise of receiving twice as much back.
Wozniak praised the quick and decisive response of Twitter in last week’s coordinated cyberattack after hackers managed to gain access to multiple accounts on the platform and posted a false crypto giveaway message. Some of the organizations and people affected by the cyberattack were companies like Gemini, Binance, Coinbase, Bitfinex, and Ripple, and individuals such as Elon Musk, Kanye West, Jeff Bezos, Michael Bloomberg, Warren Buffett, and Barack Obama.
“In stark contrast, for months now, Defendant YOUTUBE has been unapologetically hosting, promoting, and directly profiting from similar scams,” said Wozniak. “YOUTUBE and GOOGLE took the further step of promoting and profiting from these scams by providing paid advertising that targeted users who were most likely to be harmed.”
YouTube videos using Wozniak’s likeness to boost illegal cryptocurrency schemes have been thriving in the internet space and were being promoted to viewers most likely to fall prey to the fraud. He is not the first to take action against the platform as earlier this year, Ripple Labs also sued YouTube for failing to remove fake XRP giveaway scams that were causing reputational harm to the organization.
Wozniak described YouTube’s failure to warn users as willful, malicious, oppressive, fraudulent, and reckless. The suit demands a trial by jury for all the issues that the platform has caused by defrauding its community out of millions of dollars. He is also accusing defendants YouTube and Google of violating his right of publicity, misappropriating his name and likeness, as well as aiding and abetting fraud.