Apple cofounder Steve Wozniak was told in a court ruling that YouTube isn’t responsible for his images being used to promote scam bitcoin giveaways, Bloomberg reported on Wednesday.
YouTube and parent company Google are protected under a federal law that safeguards internet companies from being treated as liable for content put up by users. Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act states that “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.”
Images and a video of Wozniak were used by YouTube scammers to trick viewers into believing he was hosting a live giveaway, in which anyone who sent him bitcoin would receive double the amount in return, according to the lawsuit. Wozniak, who stepped down from Apple in 1985, filed the complaint against the video-streaming service in California superior court last year, alongside several other plaintiffs.
The platform hosted such videos for months, which led to people being defrauded out of millions of dollars, the lawsuit claimed.
Scammers have pocketed record-breaking sums of money in 2021 so far, according to the BBC. Fake crypto giveaways often target the social-media accounts of high-profile figures and will, for example, hack into their account and post on their behalf, or impersonate the official account with a spoof account. In one instance, dogecoin scammers netted more than $5 million last month by exploiting Elon Musk’s “Saturday Night Live” appearance.
Wozniak criticized YouTube for relying on Section 230, saying it had not only failed to remove the videos, but contributed to the scam by displaying targeted ads that drove traffic to them.
But these arguments aren’t enough to overcome the US law that provides immunity to platforms for their users’ content, Judge Sunil Kulkarni said in his Santa Clara County Superior Court ruling. The plaintiffs have been given 30 days to revise the complaint.
The Apple cofounder isn’t the only tech figure to have been misrepresented in video-based scams. Screenshots of similar videos featuring Microsoft billionaire Bill Gates, Elon Musk, and Dell chairman and CEO Michael Dell were put forward in the lawsuit.
Insider compiled a database of every Article III judge in the federal judiciary, which includes Supreme Court justices, federal circuit and district judges, and justices on the US Court of International Trade. Once appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate, Article III judges are granted a position for life.
Trump doled out lifetime appointments to more than three times as many male judges as female judges – 174 men and only 55 women. For comparison, of the 315 justices appointed by former President Barack Obama, who remain on the bench, 183 are men and 132 are women.
The federal judiciary is still far from achieving gender parity
A little more than half of the US population is female, but of the approximately 800 Article III judges currently on the bench, 67% are men and 33% are women. The percentage of female Trump appointees is even smaller – only 24% of his picks are women.
Equal representation at the highest levels of the law gives legitimacy to the courts and enhances the fairness of the adjudication process, experts told Insider.
“When a court is reflective of … the people they are aiming to protect, then individuals who appear in front of the court may be more confident that the court understands the real-world implications of their rulings and therefore will have better outcomes,” said Theresa Lau, senior counsel at the National Women’s Law Center.
Judges bring their unique experiences to the bench, which Judge Karen Donohue, president of the National Association of Women Judges, said often leads to more comprehensive and empathetic perspectives from female judges.
“Laws and rulings can be based on gender and racial stereotypes that may have different impacts on men and women,” Donohue said.
Having women on the bench is also a crucial step in ensuring the courts understand the implications of gender justice issues in the judicial pipeline, Lau said.
Women are not a monolith – neither are female judges
While more women in positions of judicial power is a positive aim, progressive activists are less concerned with the gender of a judge and more focused on how that judge wields their power.
“The critical question is whether or not a judge understands that central to the pursuit of freedom and justice are laws that support equity and enable women and all people to thrive,” Amanda Thayer, spokesperson for NARAL Pro-Choice, told Insider.
Two of Trump’s female appointees, in fact, have some of the harshest anti-abortion rights records of the batch.
Wendy Vitter – a Louisiana judge who once said Planned Parenthood kills “over 150,000 females a year” and Sarah Pitlyk – a pro-life Missourian who was deemed unqualified by the American Bar Association – were both confirmed to lifetime appointments in 2019.
Then there was Trump’s quickly nominated, swiftly confirmed appointment of Amy Coney Barrett – the fifth woman ever to sit on the US Supreme Court. Days before the 2020 presidential election, Trump replaced progressive stalwart Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg with Barrett, a female judge with her own storied history of hostility toward reproductive rights.
Despite polling that suggests 77% of Americans support Roe v. Wade, there has been an uptick in anti-abortion bills at the state level in recent years and Thayer said activists are watching closely for the possibility of a direct challenge to the landmark case.
Trump’s impact on the courts will be felt for years
The former president’s nominees were overwhelmingly male, overwhelmingly white, and young on average – a purposeful move on Trump’s part to guarantee his impact on the judiciary for decades, Donohue said.
“Trump definitely exacerbated the problem and the lack of diversity in the courts, but the judiciary has never been representative of the demographic diversity of this country,” Lau said.
She’s hoping that will soon start to change.
President Joe Biden already has 72 Article III vacancies to fill, nominations Lau said she hopes will go to justices who represent diverse racial, ethnic, gender, sexual orientation, family status, disability, professional, and religious identities.
Yet the sexist double standards that female attorneys and judges regularly endure have already begun to materialize in the early confirmation process for Vanita Gupta, Biden’s progressive civil rights nominee for associate attorney general.
“You’re talking about attack ads and opposition that … say ‘oh, because someone is a woman of color they are automatically biased,'” Lau said. “Which is maddening … it’s just assumed that the white male cisgender perspective is the unbiased one.”
Five years after they took Uber to court, two ex-drivers on Friday won a legal battle against the ride-hailing firm.
Yaseen Aslam and James Farrar were part of a small group of drivers who brought the original case against Uber in 2015. Aslam and his colleague Farrar, president and general secretary of the App Drivers and Couriers Union (ADCU) respectively, claimed Uber was breaking UK employment law by failing to offer basic worker rights, such as holiday pay and national minimum wage. They won the case.
Uber disputed the claims, saying it acted like other traditional minicab firms and counted its drivers as self-employed contractors. At the time, this meant drivers had minimal protections, including no sick pay and Uber could avoid the costs of paying minimum wage. In 2017, Uber appealed the original ruling and lost.
Uber then appealed the case in the UK’s Supreme Court and the process dragged on into February 2021. Again, the company lost, marking the end of its legal road. The outcome could threaten Uber’s business model in the UK – one of its biggest markets – if it is forced to cough up back pay for thousands of drivers who may bring cases, and if it must pay higher taxes.
The dispute will go back to an employment tribunal, which will decide how much the 25 drivers who brought the case five years ago will be awarded. Aslam believes he’s entitled to between £10,000 and £12,000.
“I was delighted,” he told Insider. “It means a lot. I didn’t just do it for myself, I did it for the workers and drivers. I’m just a driver who spoke up for injustice.”
Aslam, who is based in the UK, worked for Uber between 2013 and 2017. Once, during his time at the company, he says Uber “deactivated” him for organizing a campaign against the company’s treatment of drivers. This meant the company didn’t allow him to access the app to pick up passengers, he said.
“I’m not anti-Uber and I’m not there to shut Uber down. But the law is there for a reason,” he added. Uber did not respond when Insider asked it to comment on Aslam’s claims of deactivation.
Uber’s business model
When Aslam first started working at Uber, he said it was good. He earned £50 an hour, got a £10 bonus for each ride, and the fares were higher. Plus, the company “put the drivers first.”
As he continued working for the company, however, the fares got cheaper and the bonuses stopped, he says. After the launch of UberPool, a service launched in 2015 that allows people to split ride costs with another person who is travelling in the same direction, drivers were earning even less, according to Aslam.
Back in 2016, CNN also reported that drivers said UberPool meant more work, but not necessarily more pay. Aslam said drivers have realised that Uber is “hiding behind technology to control workers.”
According to Aslam, Uber’s business model involves mass recruiting and flooding the streets with drivers and cars, while keeping fares cheap to attract customers. This has long been a criticism of Uber and its business model – that the firm, initially funded by huge amounts of private capital, could afford to keep cab fares artificially low at the expense of drivers and the competition.
Although Aslam thinks businesses such as Uber should exist, he said they “rely on exploiting people and they go for a mass scaling model and I think it’s wrong.” He believes the customer should take some responsibility in the pricing as there’s a human cost involved: “There’s someone behind that wheel and they need to have rights.”
The case still isn’t over
“The devil is in the details now,” Farrar told Insider. He said Uber is being defiant about committing to implement the ruling.
After the recent ruling, Uber was quick to point out that it only applied to the group of 25 drivers who brought the case in 2016. It also said the ruling was specific to how Uber’s business operated when the drivers initially filed a lawsuit, and that the business has since changed.
“Uber is trying to spin a line to drivers that this ruling only applies to the original claimants and not to all drivers,” said Farrar, who worked for Uber between 2015 and 2016. “Not only is it untrue but it’s demonstrably contrary to the spirit of the ruling.”
He hopes Uber is just going through “a stage of emotional grief and denial” and that it will accept the ruling. But if not, he said the government and regulator Transport for London (TfL) needs to step in.
Claims against Uber are already piling up
If the government doesn’t enforce the law and TfL doesn’t step in, Farrar said he and other drivers would have to “pile up litigation” against Uber.
Indeed, thousands of claimants are already making claims against the firm. Nigel Mackay, a partner at Leigh Day Solicitors, said his company currently has 3,500 clients with claims against Uber.
Farrar, who formed an organization called Worker Info Exchange to help app workers like Uber drivers access their data from companies they work for, said these types of claims could become extremely expensive for the taxi app company. He believes there’ll be a cottage industry of lawyers making continuous claims against Uber “because it’s an easy win.”
He added: “It’s embarrassing that the poorest people on minimum wage have to go to the Supreme Court against one of the most powerful companies on Earth.”
Although Uber did not respond to Insider’s request for comment, the company sent a press release shortly after the ruling, featuring a statement from Jamie Heywood, Uber’s regional general manager for northern and eastern Europe.
It said: “We respect the court’s decision which focussed on a small number of drivers who used the Uber app in 2016. Since then we have made some significant changes to our business, guided by drivers every step of the way. These include giving even more control over how they earn and providing new protections like free insurance in case of sickness or injury. We are committed to doing more and will now consult with every active driver across the UK to understand the changes they want to see.”
Former members of the Church of Scientology who accuse the organization of harassing them to cover up sexual assault will not have their claims heard in court. Instead, a California judge ruled Thursday, their claims will have to be weighed in a private arbitration process designed by the organization itself.
The ruling stems from a 2019 lawsuit accusing “That 70s Show” star Danny Masterson of sexual assault – and the Church of Scientology of harassing them to drop the claims. The suit was filed by actor and former girlfriend Chrissie Carnell Bixler, her husband and Mars Volta lead singer Cedric Bixler-Zavala, two anonymous accusers, and actor Bobette Riales.
In their complaint, Masterson, “a high-ranking member of Church of Scientology and Religious Technology,” is accused of sexually assaulting Bixler at various times between 1996 and 2002, drugging and raping another woman twice, in 2002 and 2003, and assaulting a woman while she was too intoxicated to consent. The accusers allege that they then faced harassment from Scientology agents, including stalking and threats of violence.
In the December 30 court order, Judge Steven J. Kleifield of the Superior Court of California, County of Los Angeles, did not address the merits of the claims. Rather, the ruling states that former members of the Church of Scientology are bound by an arbitration clause signed by all who join the organization.
That clause states that members of the organization agree “to be bound exclusively by the discipline, faith, internal organization, and ecclesiastical rule, custom, and law of the Scientology religion in all matters relating to Scientology Religious Services, in all my dealings with any nature with the Church.”
Signatories agree to resolve any conflict within the organization’s own “binding religious arbitration procedures.”
Because she was never a member, and thus never signed away her rights to seek justice through the court system, Thursday’s ruling does not apply to Riales, an actor and former girlfriend who accuses Masterson of raping her multiple times during their relationship.
In June, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office charged Masterson with forcibly raping three women at his home in the early 2000s.