Apple co-founder, Steve Wozniak is suing YouTube and Google over a months long bitcoin scam.
The scam, which Wozniak has accused Google of allowing to go on without action, is similar to the recent Twitter hack, where hackers impersonated a number of verified accounts and told followers to send over bitcoin, with the promise to send back double the amount.
Fraudsters are known to have stolen at least $150,000 last month alone by impersonating Elon Musk’s Space X YouTube channel and hosting a live-streamed event asking viewers to send Bitcoin.
Though it’s impossible to know just how wide-spread such scams are, cryptocurrency monitoring service Whale Alert believes scammers made $24m in Bitcoin during the first six months of 2020. Scams like this have only been exacerbated by the global lockdowns, which saw a sharp increase in phishing and malware attacks.
The complaint, which was filed by Wozniak and 17 other plaintiffs in the Superior Court of the State of California, accuses YouTube of failing to deal with the problem after scammers used his likeness to ask for money from victims of the scam.
The complaint reads: “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 statement, Wozniak claimed: “If YouTube had acted quickly to stop this to a reasonable extent, we would not be here now.
“YouTube, like Google, seems to rely on algorithms and no special effort requiring custom software employed quickly in these cases of criminal activity.
“If a crime is being committed, you must be able to reach humans capable of stopping it.”
A YouTube spokesperson defended that platform, telling The Verge: “We take abuse of our platform seriously, and take action quickly when we detect violations of our policies, such as scams or impersonation.”
The law firm Cotchett, Pitre and McCarthy is also representing 17 others affected by the fraud, from the US, UK, Canada, Japan, Malaysia, China and Europe, BBC reports. It also seems that Bill Gates, and financial self-help guru Robert Kiyosaki have been impersonated in the scam.
Wozniak’s Lawyer, Joe Cotchett, contrasted the two recent bitcoin scams: “When Twitter was hit with a massive hack of 130 celebrity accounts, they were quick to shut down the Bitcoin scam in a day,”
“In stark contrast, the complaint alleges that YouTube knowingly allowed the Bitcoin scam to go on for months, promoted it and profited from it by selling targeted advertising.”
It’s unclear whether the case will be successful, because, In a similar case brought by cryptocurrency company Ripple Labs, reports BBC, YouTube’s legal team successfully argued the platform was not liable for any content – including scams – provided by third parties.