Former ByteDance employee claims to have been fired for pointing out illegal activity

The head of engineering was dismissed in November 2018.
Loukia Papadopoulos
ByteDance headquarters.jpg
ByteDance headquarters.

Robert Way/iStock 

A former executive at ByteDance in the United States is claiming the company let him go after he expressed concern to management that it was taking user content from other platforms, mainly Instagram and Snapchat.

This is according to a report by Reuters published on Saturday.

The man was a head of engineering at the company.

The news was revealed at a time when ByteDance-owned app TikTok faces pressure for a nationwide ban from some U.S. lawmakers regarding concerns about potential Chinese government influence over it.

Yintao "Roger" Yu filed a complaint on Friday in San Francisco state court claiming that his former employer engaged in a "worldwide scheme to steal and profit from the content of others" without seeking permission.

Yu further said that when he expressed these concerns to higher management, they dismissed them and asked him to hide the illegal program.

He was then fired in November 2018.

But that’s not all. Yu also postulated that ByteDance created fabricated users to boost its metrics and served as a useful propaganda tool for the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

Through his court order Yu hopes to prohibit ByteDance from scraping content from other social media platforms, according to Reuters.

Baseless claims

"We plan to vigorously oppose what we believe are baseless claims and allegations. Mr. Yu worked for ByteDance Inc. for less than a year,” Bytedance responded, adding that it only acquired data in line with industry practice and its global policy.

In March of 2023, the Biden Administration demanded TikTok's parent company, Beijing-based ByteDance Ltd, either sell their stakes or face a possible U.S. ban.

The move at the time was the latest and most dramatic in a series of steps taken by U.S. officials due to growing fears over security data. U.S. officials and legislators have raised concerns about the Chinese app being a national security threat, and with more than 100 million U.S. users on TikTok, the administration feels that the app's user data could be leaked to China's government.

Though TikTok was already banned from government-issued mobile devices in the U.S., the incident was the first mention of a potential nationwide ban.

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