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One of the biggest crypto commentators on YouTube has filed a lawsuit against a fellow YouTuber for "defamatory and damaging statements," seeking to recover damages.
Ben Armstrong, who brands himself as BitBoy Crypto, says Erling Mengshoel Jr., a.k.a. Atozy, posted a video on YouTube entitled “This Youtuber Scams His Fans... BitBoy Crypto” in November 2021. The lawsuit claims a laundry list of offenses in that video, including defamation, infliction of emotional distress, tortious interference with business relations or potential business relations, violation of the Uniform Deceptive Practices Act, and violation of the Fair Business Practices Act.
The filing says Mengshoel "repeatedly calls Armstrong a 'dirtbag,' stating that he is a 'shady dirtbag' and a 'dirtbag YouTuber.'”
Armstrong has 1.44 million subscribers and has netted 212 million views since launching his channel in February 2018. Mengshoel has 1.23 million subscribers, with 223 million views since March 2012.
The complaint and jury demand was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia in Atlanta yesterday, deemed by Armstrong's legal counsel to be the appropriate venue as Armstrong lives in Acworth, Georgia, while Mengshoel lives in Sterling, Virginia.
It is a federal suit because it involves impact and losses in excess of $75,000.
Mengshoel and Armstrong did not respond to requests for comment from Decrypt.
However, Armstrong's lawsuit provides an extensive recounting of Mengshoel's comments about him.
"In case you didn’t know what an absolute sleezy dirtbag of a YouTuber is, here’s BitBoy Crypto, a prime example of that," Mengshoel says in his video, as recounted in the filing.
Armstrong's lawsuit claims Mengshoel directly attacks his livelihood by saying that he is “not someone you should be looking up to for any advice whatsoever," and "cannot be trusted with financial advice because you don’t know whether he’s trying to enrich you or himself.”
There is, however, a contradiction between what Armstrong asserts in his lawsuit and what he presents online in his disclaimers.
"[Armstrong]'s business model relies on his reputation and his status as an 'influencer,' i.e., a well-known online personality who influences others’ decisions such as to buy or sell cryptocurrency as investments," the complaint reads, introducing as fact that he is "an industry-leading source of reliable commentary with respect to investments in cryptocurrency."
Further, the lawsuit asks, "Can there be a more damaging assertion for someone like BitBoy Crypto who engages in the business of providing advice and commentary on cryptocurrency investments?"
But on Armstrong's YouTube channel, he says his content is "for general information purposes only," and cautions, "Please be advised that I am not a professional advisor in business areas involving finance, cryptocurrency, taxation, securities and commodities trading, or the practice of law. Nothing written or discussed is intended to be construed, or relied upon, as investment, financial, legal, regulatory, accounting, tax or similar advice, nor should it be."
One of the key claims Mengshoel makes is that Armstrong was paid to pitch cryptocurrency "scams" to "suckers," and that the practice would eventually draw the attention of the Securities and Exchange Commission because influencers "cannot resist the urge to take that quick buck and just milk their audience for some extra money.”
While Armstrong's lawsuit says the allegation is "without any factual support," a CNBC story last week reported that Armstrong made over $100,000 a month for promoting cryptocurrencies, including $30,000 alone for the failed DistX cryptocurrency. "That’s a practice he says he now regrets because it led to some painful losses for his own viewers," CNBC wrote. Armstrong also promoted other fly-by-night projects like Ethereum Yield, Cypherium, and MYX Network. When those projects failed, he deleted the videos from his channel.
Armstrong's emotional state is "fragile," according to his lawsuit, and he now "suffers from severe anxiety that he will be perceived as a felon, a fraud, and untrustworthy in business or in general." The suit goes on to say that Armstrong "now has recurring bouts of depression about whether Defendant’s defamatory statements will harm Armstrong financially and socially and whether he will be able to recover his good reputation and business as a result."
Ultimately, Armstrong's lawsuit accuses Mengshoel's video of being "a hit job, an attack piece, not some investigative report," the lawsuit reads. "It wholly lacks supporting facts—investigative reporters don’t say 'I hate sleezebags like this, because they ruin it for everyone.'"
For his part, Mengshoel in his Twitter bio describes his YouTube channel as a place to "talk about people doing dumb stuff on the internet."