Steve Wozniak Cleared to Sue YouTube in Bitcoin Scam Case

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  • A California appellate court has cleared Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak to sue YouTube
  • Wozniak and 17 others claim that YouTube is responsible for allowing their images to be used in a 2020 Bitcoin scam
  • YouTube had evaded the lawsuit in a lower court where it cited existing laws protecting it from such cases

Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak is now free to sue YouTube afresh after a California court of appeal overturned the decision of a lower court that ruled in favor of the video streaming platform. Wozniak had taken YouTube to court for allowing malicious users on the platform to use his image in a Bitcoin scam in 2020. Although a lower court had indicated that YouTube is protected by existing laws against such lawsuits, the appeal court said that there were exceptions since YouTube seems to have “materially” contributed to the scam.

Verified Badges During Active Scam Sessions

Wozniak and other prominent figures whose images were used to promote the fake crypto giveaway had sued the video streaming platform and its parent Google for failing to protect users from malicious entities and promotions.

In 2022, a lower court said YouTube has no case to answer citing the Communications Decency Act Section 230, saying it protects the platform in such scenarios.

The appeal court, however, said that it’s liable since it provides “verification badges to hijacked YouTube channels,” something that can be considered aiding the scammers to nab more victims. 

The court also noted that the hijacked channels on the video streaming platform maintain their badges even after being used by scammers, with some even receiving the badges when the scammers were controlling them.

A Review of Section 230?

Under these circumstances, the court ruled, the prevailing laws can’t provide a total shield, putting similar platforms on notice.

With the appeal court’s ruling, it’s to be seen whether similar platforms will enhance users’ protection against malicious actors, especially with the proliferation of AI-powered deep fakes.