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A Scammer Used YouTube’s Copyright System to Ransom Creators

Published: February 7, 2019
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A scammer was found to be manually abusing YouTube’s automated copyright system in an effort to hold YouTube channels ransom.

By submitting multiple fake copyright “flags” on videos, the scammer was able to bring at least two YouTube accounts to the brink of automatic deactivation under YouTube’s “three strikes” policy, even getting past YouTube employees who double-checked the suspicious claim.

“We striked you. Our request is $150 PayPal or $75 [Bitcoin],” read one message received by ObbyRaidz, a small gaming channel with fewer than 8,000 subscribers. “Once we receive our payment we will cancel both strikes on your channel.”

The message, sent by someone calling themselves “VengefulFlame,” went on to threaten a third copyright strike if the victim did not comply, which would result in the victim’s channel being automatically deleted. VengefulFlame also sent a similar warning to Kenzo, another small gaming channel, demanding $200 in Bitcoin or $300 via PayPal—amounts that would double if they were “ignored.”

According to YouTube, anti-abuse teams initially identified the requests as suspicious and asked for more information. VengefulFlame complied with the company's request and YouTube wrongly took down the videos, YouTube told Motherboard.

YouTube confirmed with Motherboard that it has since reinstated the videos, removed the strikes, and terminated the accounts that made the requests from the site, but only after ObbyRaidz and Kenzo both tweeted about their issues.

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