Lawyers for Steve Wozniak, one of Apple’s co-founders, announced a lawsuit against YouTube and parent company Google on Wednesday, alleging the companies failed to take down videos that used Wozniak’s likenesses in a bitcoin scam.
“The allegations paint a picture of an algorithm-driven tech giant that does not respond to victims and that YouTube has allowed scammers to use me, Bill Gates, Elon Musk and others to defraud innocent people out of their cryptocurrency,” Wozniak said in a statement.
The suit filed in San Mateo County Superior Court by Burlingame law firm Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy alleges the videos used images and videos of Wozniak and other tech celebrities to deceive YouTube users into thinking if they sent cryptocurrency to an account they would receive twice as much back. The schemes are reminiscent of a scam that rocked Twitter this month, when that website was hacked and celebrity accounts tweeted similar messages.
“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 out of millions of dollars,” the complaint said.
The company said it provides users with tools to report channels that are impersonating them, and to report individual videos.
YouTube said it removed more than 2.2 million videos and terminated more than 1.7 million accounts for violating its policies on deceptive practices like scams and spam in the first quarter of last year.
Cotchett attorney Brian Danitz said Thursday that a federal law often cited by online publishers was no shield against the allegations.
The Communications Decency Act “is meant to protect a post, not to protect pushing advertising to customers knowing they are fraudulent bitcoin scams,” he said. Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act provides broad immunity to online services that allow users to publish information for the content of users’ posts.