Apple Co-Founder Steve Wozniak Loses Case Against YouTube Involving Bitcoin Scam

A California superior court judge ruled the social media giant was not responsible for its users' content.

Jun 3, 2021 at 5:58 a.m. UTC
Updated Sep 14, 2021 at 1:05 p.m. UTC

Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak lost his lawsuit against social media giant YouTube for the unintended use of his image in videos promoting a bitcoin scam.

According to a report by Bloomberg on Wednesday, Santa Clara County (Calif.) Superior Court Judge Sunil R. Kulkarni said YouTube and its parent company Google were protected under federal law from responsibility for their users' posts.

Wozniak alleged the publisher allowed the use of his image and sold targeted ads to drive traffic to the videos, falsely authenticating the YouTube channels disseminating the videos. Wozniak was one of 18 plaintiffs who filed suit against YouTube last year seeking punitive damages. The suit alleged the image and likeness of other well-known entrepreneurs, including Bill Gates, Elon Musk and Michael Dell, were also being exploited in these scams.

Wozniak attempted to challenge Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, the federal law protecting social media platforms from being sued for their users' content. Judge Kulkarni said the law protected YouTube.

The videos promoted a dubious "bitcoin giveaway scam" that promised to double a user's funds after they sent an initial amount to a wallet address via QR code.

Multiple celebrities have been targeted and used to promote such scams over the years. In 2020, the identities of Ethereum founder Vitalik Buterin and Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss, founders of the U.S.-based Gemini exchange, were used to lure people into giving up their crypto.

CORRECTION (June 3 12:13 UTC) Fixes the spelling of the judge's name.

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