1684055550 Ex ByteDance employee claims company stole content from competitors in earlier

Ex-ByteDance employee claims company stole content from competitors in earlier days

New York CNN –

A former ByteDance employee claimed he was wrongly fired after raising concerns about what he believed to be illegal practices by the company, including allegedly stealing content from rivals Snapchat and Instagram.

Yintao “Roger” Yu, who filed a lawsuit in San Francisco Superior Court earlier this month, worked at ByteDance, TikTok’s parent company, from August 2017 to November 2018 as the technical director for US operations.

And in a new complaint filed Friday, Yu also claimed that ByteDance embraces a “culture of lawlessness” and is a “propaganda” arm of China, according to The New York Times.

“The committee retained unrestricted access to all company data, including data stored in the United States,” according to the complaint seen by the New York Times.

The committee refers to a special unit of Chinese Communist Party members who were staying at ByteDance’s offices in Beijing, the Times said.

Yu claimed that shortly after starting the job, he realized that ByteDance was involved in a “worldwide plan” to steal from the app’s competitors like Instagram and Snapchat. He painted a picture of the company’s early days in 2018, claiming ByteDance would take videos from its competitors and use them to populate its own video services.

The former employee claimed in the complaint that he was “disturbed by ByteDance’s efforts to circumvent legal and ethical boundaries.”

The allegations come as the hugely popular TikTok app risks being banned by US lawmakers over national security concerns. Montana lawmakers voted to ban TikTok outright in the state just weeks after CEO Shou Zi Chew testified for hours before Congress. And the Biden administration has threatened a nationwide ban on TikTok unless its Chinese owners sell their stakes in the company, in a sign of increasingly strained relations between the two countries.

However, security experts say there is still no public evidence that the Chinese government was actually spying on people via TikTok, which does not operate in China.

“We don’t know that TikTok did anything, but that distrust of China and awareness of Chinese espionage increased,” said James Lewis, an information security expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Yu said he raised intellectual property concerns with Wenjia Zhu, who was senior vice president of engineering at the time.

“When Mr. Zhu was informed of Mr. Yu’s concerns about the program, he denied them and the intellectual property infringement continued unabated,” the complaint reads.

Charles Jung, Yu’s attorney, said the former employee was the highest-ranking manager to come forward publicly.

“In his opinion, technology companies should be run in an ethical and responsible manner,” Jung said in a statement to CNN. “My client is concerned about the protection of American 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 “obligated to respect the intellectual property of other companies and we collect data in accordance with industry practices and our global policy.”

Yu is seeking damages such as 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 counter what we believe are unfounded allegations and allegations in this complaint,” the spokesman said. “Mr. Yu worked for ByteDance Inc. for less than a year and his employment ended in July 2018,” which Yu denied in his complaint.