A former ByteDance employee claims the company stole content from competitors in the past
A former ByteDance employee claimed he was wrongfully terminated after raising concerns about the company’s illegal activities, such as stealing content from competitors Snapchat and Instagram.
Yingtao “Roger” Yu, who filed the complaint in San Francisco Superior Court earlier this month, worked for TikTok’s parent company ByteDance as an engineer for US operations from August 2017 to November 2018.
In the new lawsuit filed on Friday, Yu further alleged that ByteDance indulged in a “culture of lawlessness” and was a “propaganda” arm of China, according to The New York Times.
“The committee provided high-level access to all company data, even data stored in the United States,” the complaint, obtained by The New York Times, said.
The committee is referring to a special unit of Chinese Communist Party members who visited ByteDance’s offices in Beijing, the Times reported.
Yu said that shortly after starting his job, he realized that ByteDance was involved in a “global scheme” to steal from competitors such as Instagram and Snapchat. In 2018, painting a picture of the company’s early days, it claimed that ByteDance was taking videos from competitors and using them to power its own video services.
The former employee said in the complaint that he was “disturbed by ByteDance’s attempts to circumvent legal and ethical standards.”
The allegations come as popular app TikTok is banned by US lawmakers over national security concerns. Montana lawmakers have voted to completely ban TikTok in the state, just weeks after CEO Shaw Tzu-Chew testified before Congress for hours. And the Biden administration has threatened to ban TikTok nationwide unless its Chinese owners sell their stake in the company, signaling a strained relationship between the two countries.
However, security experts say there is still no clear evidence that the Chinese government has actually spied on people through TikTok, which does not operate in China.
“We don’t know if TikTok has done anything, it’s increased mistrust of China and increased awareness of Chinese espionage,” said James Lewis, TikTok’s security analyst. information at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
Yu says he raised his intellectual property concerns with Wenjia Zhu, then senior vice president of engineering.
“When informed of Mr. Yu’s concerns about the program, Mr. Zhu fired them and the intellectual property rights violations continued unabated,” the complaint said.
Yu’s lawyer, Charles Jung, said the former employee was the most senior executive to speak publicly.
“He believes that technology companies should be run ethically and responsibly,” Jung said in a statement to CNN. “My client is concerned about the protection of US user data, the ethical operation of the app, and the well-being of ByteDance employees.”
In a statement to CNN, A ByteDance spokesperson said the company is “committed to respecting the intellectual property of other companies, and we collect data in accordance with industry practices and our global policies.”
Yu is seeking compensatory damages, including lost earnings, injunctive relief, and liquidated and punitive damages.
A ByteDance spokesperson said Yu worked on an app called Flipagram while at the company, which was discontinued for business reasons.
“We plan to vigorously contest the baseless claims and allegations in this complaint,” the spokesperson said. “Mr. Yu ByteDance Inc. worked at the company for less than a year and his employment ended in July 2018,” Yu argued in his complaint.
All news on the site does not represent the views of the site, but we automatically submit this news and translate it through software technology on the site rather than a human editor.