Byte Dance has been accused of a “culture of lawlessness,” including stealing content from rival platforms like Snapchat & Instagram. A former executive sued Byte Dance, which owns Tik Tok, for wrongful termination and accused the company of lifting content from rivals and “supreme access” by the Chinese Communist Party, The New York Times reported. A former executive at Byte Dance, the Chinese company that owns Tik Tok, has accused the technology giant of a “culture of lawlessness,” including stealing content from rival platforms Snapchat and Instagram in its early years, and called the company a “useful propaganda tool for the Chinese Communist Party,” according to the daily newspaper. The claims were part of a wrongful dismissal suit filed on Friday by Yintao Yu, who was the head of engineering for Byte Dance’s US operations from August 2017 to November 2018. The complaint, filed in San Francisco Superior Court, says Yu was fired because he raised concerns about a “worldwide scheme” to steal and profit from other companies’ intellectual property. According to the NYT’s report, among the most striking claims in Yu’s lawsuit is that ByteDance’s offices in Beijing had a special unit of Chinese Communist Party members sometimes referred to as the Committee, which monitored the company’s apps, “guided how the company advanced core Communist values” and possessed a “death switch” that could turn off the Chinese apps entirely. “The Committee maintained supreme access to all the company data, even data stored in the United States,” the complaint said.
Yu’s Claims, Which Describe How Byte Dance Operated Five Years Ago.
are surfacing as TikTok faces intense national scrutiny over its relationship with its parent company and China’s potential influence on the platform. The video app, which is used by more than 150 million Americans, has become hugely popular for memes and entertainment. But lawmakers and US officials are concerned that the app is passing sensitive information about Americans to Beijing. In March, a congressional committee grilled TikTok’s chief executive, Shou Chew, about the app’s Chinese ownership. Christopher Wray, the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, recently said that TikTok “screams out with national security concerns.” More than two dozen states have banned TikTok from government devices since November, NYT said. In March, a congressional committee grilled Tik Tok’s chief executive, Shou Chew, about the app’s Chinese ownership. Christopher Wray, the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, recently said that TikTok “screams out with national security concerns.” More than two dozen states have banned Tik Tok from government devices since November, NYT said. In an emailed statement, Byte Dance said Friday that the company would “vigorously oppose what we believe are baseless claims and allegations in this complaint.” “Mr. Yu worked for ByteDance Inc. for less than a year and his employment ended in July 2018. During his brief time at the company, he worked on an app called Flipagram, which was discontinued years ago for business reasons,” the statement said. In his complaint, Yu, 36, said that as TikTok sought to attract users in its early days, ByteDance engineers copied videos and posts from Snapchat and Instagram without permission and then posted them to the app. He also claimed that ByteDance “systematically created fabricated users” — essentially an army of bots — to boost engagement numbers, a practice that Mr. Yu said he flagged to his superiors. Yu said he raised these concerns with Zhu Wenjia, who was in charge of the TikTok algorithm, but that Mr. Zhu was “dismissive” and remarked that it was “not a big deal.” Yu, who spent part of his ByteDance tenure working in its China offices, said he also witnessed engineers for Douyin, the Chinese version of TikTok, tweak the algorithm to elevate content that expressed hatred for Japan. In an interview, he said that the promotion of anti-Japanese sentiments, which would make it more prominent for users, was done without hesitation.