Bitcoin scams are causing a lot of headaches right now. They've gotten so bad that an Apple cofounder has sued YouTube because of them.
Steve Wozniak filed a lawsuit this week against YouTube over a string of Bitcoin scam videos hosted on the website. The videos use Wozniak's name and likeness to trick viewers into sending Bitcoin to the scammers by promising they'll get sent even more Bitcoin in return.
Wozniak's lawyers point out that while Twitter quickly responded to its own Bitcoin scam last week, they accuse YouTube of doing nothing in order to profit off the videos.
Seventeen other victims of Bitcoin scams have joined Wozniak to sue YouTube. They want YouTube to immediately take down the videos and warn users about these scam giveaways so they can be avoided. They also want YouTube to pony up an undisclosed amount for damages.
In a statement provided to Bloomberg, YouTube said that scams and impersonations are against the platform’s policies and the company works to remove them when it detects these violations.
The online video giant has previously defended itself against similar lawsuits by arguing that the company can't be held accountable for the content posted by its users under the federal Communications Decency Act of 1996. In general, that law protects publishers that host user-generated content from being sued for what's been uploaded to their platforms.
Bitcoin scams have inundated major social media websites in recent years. A scammer typically poses as a well-known celebrity or tech entrepreneur. While pretending to be this individual, the fraudster will offer an easy money-making scheme that involves sending the scammer Bitcoin. The scammer promises the victim that they will receive even more cryptocurrency in return. The victim never receives the cryptocurrency and loses whatever amount they had sent in the first place.
YouTube scammers livestream or upload videos promoting these Bitcoin schemes, using photos and video of Steve Wozniak, Elon Musk, Bill Gates, and other tech luminaries in order to trick viewers into sending the cryptocurrency to the scammer’s account. There are numerous pre-existing videos of Wozniak on YouTube discussing Bitcoin positively as a disruptive technology so it's fairly easy for scammers to find content to use in their fraud campaigns.
The Twitter hackers from last week also used Musk's and Gates' accounts in their Bitcoin scam, which is very similar to the one used on YouTube. Twitter experienced the biggest attack in its history when a hacker (or possibly hackers) took over dozens of verified accounts in order to tweet out a Bitcoin scam. The hacker walked away with around $120,000 in Bitcoin in just a few hours.
Interestingly, Wozniak’s lawsuit heralds Twitter for the actions it took, especially when compared to YouTube.
“That same day, Twitter acted swiftly and decisively to shut down these accounts and to protect its users from the scam,” reads the lawsuit obtained by cryptocurrency news outlet CoinDesk. “In stark contrast, for months now, Defendant YouTube has been unapologetically hosting, promoting, and directly profiting from similar scams. 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."
These Bitcoin scams are clearly not going away. In fact, the scammers are getting even more brazen as shown by the Twitter hack. Platforms where these scams spread need to step up efforts to stop them. Whether Wozniak's lawsuit will actually move the needle remains to be seen.