Ex-Exec from TikTok Parent Company Goes Public in Major Lawsuit, Filing Says a 'Worldwide Scheme' Is at Work
A former executive at the parent company of TikTok has filed a barrage of allegations at the company, saying it functions as a tool of the Chinese Community Party with little regard for lawful conduct.
Earlier this month, Yintao Yu, the head of engineering for ByteDance’s American operations sued the company in California Superior Court for San Francisco County. The core of the suit is that Yu claims he was fired, after being with the company from August 2017 to November 2018, because he was a whistleblower, according to The Hill.
In his initial May 1 complaint, Yu alleged “ByteDance had for years engaged in a worldwide scheme to steal and profit from the copyrighted works of others. The effort involved the use of software to strip intellectual property from competitor’s websites — chiefly, Instagram and Snapchat — and populate its own video services with these videos in an effort to make its own services appear more popular to end users.
”These actions were taken without the permission of the content creators and represented an unlawful effort to gain an edge against entrenched online video hosting websites.”
The complaint noted that Yu was terminated after raising his concerns and that stock options he was promised never materialized.
A report in The New York Times said Yu followed that up with a Friday filing claiming a “culture of lawlessness,” existed at TikTok’s parent company, which he additionally called a “useful propaganda tool for the Chinese Communist Party.”
Questions have long been raised over TikTok’s connection to the Chinese government. Many American lawmakers have voiced concerns, spurring the company’s best efforts to soft-pedal the rising worries.
Yu’s complaint has only given new life to those concerns.
The Friday filling further alleged that ByteDance’s Beijing office contained a group of Chinese Communist Party members called the Committee.
The group “guided how the company advanced core Communist values” and had a “death switch” to shut off Chinese apps if necessary.
“The Committee maintained supreme access to all the company data, even data stored in the United States,” the complaint said.
In an interview, Yu said anti-Japanese sentiments were promoted to make them more visible to users.
“There was no debate,” he said. “They just did it.”
“The Committee maintained supreme access to all the company data, even data stored in the United States,” the Friday filing said, according to Fortune.
Additionally, the filing claimed: “After receiving criticism about access from abroad, individual engineers in China were restricted from accessing U.S. user data, but the Committee continued to have access.”
“He was surprised by the brazenly unlawful conduct within the company, which was euphemistically excused as ‘entrepreneurship,’” the Friday complaint said.
ByteDance said in a statement it would “vigorously oppose what we believe are baseless claims and allegations in this complaint,” according to the Times.
“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.
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