Steve Wozniak, one of the most well-known tech pioneers in the U.S., has filed a lawsuit with 17 other plaintiffs against YouTube over videos that use his likeness and likenesses of other influential people to push Bitcoin scams.
The suit claims that the video platform has done nothing to stop videos that seek to draw in victims with phony Bitcoin giveaway events. The scam tends to use images or videos of Wozniak or other public figures like Barack Obama or Elon Musk, and they promise that users can send in cryptocurrency and get double their money back.
If that notion gives you pause, then that’s probably a good thing. However, it appears that not everyone has the same reservations. The suit claims that these scams have cost consumers “millions of dollars.” Worse yet, the plaintiffs accuse YouTube of allowing the scams to be perpetrated so that it can profit by attaching advertising to the videos.
“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. YouTube and Google took the further step of promoting and profiting from these scams by providing advertising that targeted users who were most likely to be harmed,” the suit states.
A tale of two scams
In its argument, the suit makes frequent references to a massive hack of the social media platform Twitter that occurred earlier this month. Similarly in that case, the accounts of many celebrities and public figures were compromised to push fake cryptocurrency promotions. However, the plaintiffs of the YouTube suit say that Twitter handled the situation very differently.
“Twitter acted swiftly and decisively to shut down these accounts and to protect its users from the scam,” the suit states. “In stark contrast, for months now, [YouTube] has been unapologetically hosting, promoting, and directly profiting from similar scams.”
“In essence, unknown fraudsters scam YouTube users out of cryptocurrency using the names and likenesses of Wozniak and other celebrities as bait, and YouTube takes its cut of these illegally gotten proceeds by knowingly and willingly selling those same fraudsters targeted advertising that drive additional YouTube users to fraudulent promotions and videos, thereby further fueling the scam and keeping the money flowing.”
The lawsuit is seeking monetary relief for damages and injunctive relief against YouTube that would require it to remove all scam videos that bear Wozniak’s likeness.