A former technical lead at Bytedance in the US said the company fired him after he expressed concerns to management that it was taking user content from other platforms, mainly Instagram and Snapchat.
The row comes at a time when ByteDance-owned app TikTok is facing increasing calls for a nationwide ban from some US lawmakers over concerns about possible Chinese government influence.
Yintao “Roger” Yu said in a complaint filed in San Francisco state court on Friday that the Chinese tech company was involved in a “worldwide scheme to steal the content of others and monetize it” without obtaining permission.
When Yu brought these concerns to senior management, he said they dismissed them and asked him to hide the illegal program, particularly from employees in the United States, as it has stricter IP laws and class action lawsuits.
He was later fired from ByteDance in November 2018.
Yu also said in the complaint that ByteDance created fake users to exaggerate its metrics and served as a useful propaganda tool for the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
He is seeking a court order that would prohibit ByteDance from removing content from other social media platforms.
In response to the complaint, ByteDance said, “We plan to vigorously counter what we believe are unfounded claims and allegations. Mr. Yu worked for ByteDance for less than a year.”
ByteDance also responded to the scraping allegations, saying it collected data in line with industry practice and its global policies.
In April, Montana lawmakers passed a bill banning its short-form app TikTok from operating in the state.
In March, US lawmakers quizzed TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew on China’s potential influence, saying the short videos are harming children’s mental health, reflecting bipartisan concerns about the app’s power over Americans.
© Thomson Reuters 2023