In a surprising turn of events, a former ByteDance executive has filed a lawsuit accusing the company of using underhanded tactics such as deploying bots and stealing content from other apps to inflate TikTok's engagement. The allegations, if true, could fuel further scrutiny for the popular social media app, which is already facing challenges in the United States.
Yintao Yu, the former head of engineering, has alleged in his lawsuit that ByteDance wrongfully terminated him after he opposed the company's practices, which included pilfering material from other apps. Yu also claims that ByteDance served as a "useful propaganda tool for the Chinese Communist Party," and that China-based employees had access to US users' data.
While Yu's claims date back to ByteDance's operations five years ago, they are likely to intensify concerns surrounding TikTok's potential threat to national security and its ability to protect user data. These concerns have led US officials to consider a nationwide ban on the app.
Yu's lawsuit paints a picture of a "special unit of Chinese Communist Party members" within ByteDance's Beijing offices, who allegedly guided the company's promotion of core Communist values. Additionally, Yu claims that ByteDance engineers stole popular content from Instagram and Snapchat, and used bot accounts to manipulate engagement metrics during TikTok's early days in the US market.
In response to these allegations, a ByteDance spokesperson has stated that the company will vigorously oppose what they believe are baseless claims. As the legal battle unfolds, the spotlight on TikTok and its parent company ByteDance is set to intensify, with potential repercussions for the app's future in the United States.