Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak lost a bid to make YouTube more responsive, and responsible, for fighting bitcoin giveaway scams.
Wozniak sued the streaming site last year, saying it routinely ignored requests to take down sites that used his name and videos, to con people into sending them cryptocurrency on the promise of getting more back.
He didn’t get very far. A California judge tentatively tossed the case yesterday, saying YouTube was protected by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which shields Internet platforms from responsibility from what’s posted on their sites by third parties.
Wozniak’s suit said that YouTube not only refused to take down many fraudulent videos, it “materially contributed” to the scams by selling ads and incorrectly verifying the posters.
Giveaway scams have been a huge problem for the cryptocurrency industry as many less-famous-than-Woz participants have been targeted as well. Ripple CEO Brad Garlinghouse settled a lawsuit against YouTube in March over the same issue — XRP giveaway scams using his videos to con people.
Can’t You Even Try?
Wozniak’s lawsuit not only blasted YouTube for indifference to the problem, but for incompetence in not fixing it.
Pointing out that just a month earlier, Twitter had very quickly taken down a huge hack that promoted a crypto giveaway scam using the accounts of Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and then-candidate Joe Biden among others, Wozniak’s suit compared YouTube reaction unfavorably.
“In stark contrast, for months now, Defendant YOUTUBE has been unapologetically hosting, promoting, and directly profiting from similar scams,” the lawsuit claimed. “YOUTUBE has featured a steady stream of scam videos and promotions that falsely use images and videos of Plaintiff STEVE WOZNIAK, and other famous tech entrepreneurs, and that have defrauded YOUTUBE users out of millions of dollars.”
In a press release at the time, Wozniak added: “If YouTube had acted quickly to stop this to a reasonable extent, we would not be here now.”
He blamed the problem on platforms’ use of technology rather than humans to fight scam.
“YouTube, like Google, seems to rely on algorithms and no special effort requiring custom software employed quickly in these cases of criminal activity,” Wozniak said. “If a crime is being committed, you MUST be able to reach humans capable of stopping it. What human would see posts like these and not ban them as criminals immediately?”