Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak is suing video-sharing giant YouTube and its parent company Google for allegedly allowing bitcoin giveaway scams that use his likeness to thrive on its platform.
Wozniak was one of 18 plaintiffs who filed the lawsuit on Tuesday, which seeks punitive damages, a trial by jury and demands YouTube remove all bitcoin giveaway scams and promotions using Wozniak’s name and likeness.
The suit praised Twitter for acting “swiftly and decisively” to shut down malicious accounts and “protect its users from the scam,” referencing the platform’s response to last week’s coordinated cyberattack that gained access to a host of verified Twitter accounts and posted a crypto giveaway message.
“In stark contrast, for months now, Defendant YOUTUBE has been unapologetically hosting, promoting and directly profiting from similar scams,” the suit said.
Wozniak is not the first to take action against YouTube over crypto scams. Earlier this year, Ripple Labs, along with CEO Brad Garlinghouse, sued the platform for allegedly failing to effectively police fake XRP giveaway scams that were causing monetary and reputation harm to the company.
According to the new complaint filed with the Superior Court of the State of California in the county of San Mateo, 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.”
The suit alleged that the image and likeness of other well-known entrepreneurs including Bill Gates, Elon Musk and Michael Dell were also being exploited in these scams.
According to screenshots attached in the complaint, the scams involving Wozniak uses images and videos that tell users that the entrepreneur is hosting a live bitcoin or “BTC” giveaway event. The suit alleges that the posts “convince” users to transfer their cryptocurrency promising that, for a limited time, they “will receive twice as much back”.
“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,” the suit said.
Wozniak is accusing defendants YouTube and Google of violating his right of publicity, misappropriating his name and likeness, as well as aiding and abetting fraud, and negligent failure to warn users.
“Defendants’ failure to warn was willful, malicious, oppressive, fraudulent, and/or in reckless disregard of the Plaintiffs’ rights, thereby entitling Plaintiffs to punitive damages,” the suit said.
The suit demands a trial by jury on all issues triable, and damages that include legal expenses, and any “gains, profits, or advantages wrongfully obtained by Defendants.”
The lawsuit was filed by Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy, LLP.
Read the full complaint here: