According to a complaint filed in San Francisco state court on Friday, a former head of engineering at Bytedance in the United States claims that the company dismissed him after he voiced concerns to management that it was taking user content from other platforms, primarily Instagram and Snapchat, without permission.
The complaint was made public at a time when TikTok, owned by ByteDance, is facing increased calls for a nationwide ban from some US lawmakers over concerns of potential Chinese government influence. Yintao “Roger” Yu, the former head of engineering, alleged that ByteDance was engaged in a “worldwide scheme to steal and profit from the content of others.
” Yu further stated that he was asked by management to hide the program, particularly from employees in the US who are subject to stricter intellectual property laws and class actions. Yu was subsequently fired by ByteDance in November 2018.
Yu also accused ByteDance of creating fake users to inflate its metrics and acting as a propaganda tool for the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). He is seeking a court order prohibiting ByteDance from scraping content from other social media platforms. ByteDance said in response that it would “vigorously oppose what we believe are baseless claims and allegations.” It also stated that it acquired data in accordance with industry standards and its global policy.
Montana lawmakers passed a bill in April to ban the short-form TikTok app from operating in the state, and in March, US lawmakers expressed concerns about potential Chinese influence on TikTok, citing its short videos as harmful to children’s mental health.