Steve Wozniak, who co-founded multinational tech firm Apple Inc., recently lost a lawsuit against YouTube over videos that used his image to promote a bogus Bitcoin giveaway. In a tentative ruling on June 3, a Santa Clara judge declared that YouTube and its parent company Google LLC are protected by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act that clarifies that internet platforms are not responsible for content posted by users.
The video advert falsely touted Wozniak as the host of a Bitcoin giveaway. In the video, the scammers lured users saying that they would get double the Bitcoins they send. The now-deleted video also used other famous named such as that of Microsoft founder Bill Gates, Amazon chief Jeff Bezos and Tesla CEO Elon Musk amongst others.
Wozniak, in his lawsuit, filed last year, argued that Youtube should not be protected as it not only failed to remove the video but also “materially contributed” to the scam. Wozniak claimed that the video-sharing platform profited from the scam by selling targeted ads, driving traffic to the fraudulent videos after falsely verifying the scammers’ Youtube channels. However, he was dismissed by the judge Sunil R. Kulkarni who asserted that the factors “weren’t enough” to overpower the immunity provided under Section 230. Wozniak has now been given a time frame of 30 days to revise his complaint.
What is section 230?
As per Section 230, “No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider” This implies that “online intermediaries” or social media platforms, that host or republish speech are “protected against a range of laws that might otherwise be used to hold them legally responsible for what others say and do,” Electronic Frontier Foundation explained.
While defenders of the law have argued that it allowed online services to flourish without fear of law, many others pointed out that Section 230 was too lenient and enables the “proliferation of abusive content” and incitements to violence.