Former ByteDance exec claims firm used bots to inflate TikTok engagement

TikTok continues to be combating to stay operational in the US, however a brand new lawsuit might complicate issues even additional for the corporate. A former ByteDance government has alleged TikTok’s proprietor used bots and stolen content material to inflate the app’s engagement.

The lawsuit, filed by former head of engineering Yintao Yu and The New York Instances, claims that ByteDance wrongly fired Yu after he pushed again on firm practices like stealing different apps’ materials. It additionally claims that ByteDance acted as a “helpful propaganda software for the Chinese language Communist Social gathering,” and that China-based workers might entry US customers’ information.

As The New York Instances factors out, Yu’s allegations “describe how ByteDance operated 5 years in the past” and are available after “a number of years of mediation.” Nonetheless, the claims are nonetheless more likely to gasoline much more scrutiny for TikTok, which is dealing with of a nationwide ban in the US. Lawmakers and different officers have claimed that TikTok is a nationwide safety risk and that the app can’t be trusted to guard the information of US customers.

Yu’s allegations might intensify these issues. The lawsuit particulars “a particular unit of Chinese language Communist Social gathering members” at ByteDance workplaces in Beijing who “guided how the corporate superior core Communist values.” He additionally alleges that ByteDance workers manipulated Douyin, the Chinese language model of TikTok, to suppress content material about protests in Hong Kong and “elevate content material that expressed hatred for Japan.”

A few of Yu’s claims additionally relate on to TikTok. Notably, he claims that ByteDance engineers stole standard content material from apps like Instagram and Snapchat and put the movies onto TikTok. He additionally alleges that the corporate used bot accounts to juice the app’s engagement metrics when it was simply beginning out and attempting to achieve a foothold within the US. (Yu left the corporate in November 2018, shortly after ByteDance rebranded as TikTok.)

Spokespeople for ByteDance and TikTok didn’t instantly reply to a request for remark. However TikTok has repeatedly tried to downplay its ties to ByteDance and China, together with in CEO Shou Zi Chew’s congressional testimony . The corporate has additionally devoted greater than a billion {dollars} into , which goals to wall off TikTok’s US consumer information from the remainder of ByteDance in an effort to allay the issues of US regulators.

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