A former ByteDance executive, Yintao Yu has filed some explosive claims with the San Francisco Superior Court as part of a wrongful dismissal case, The New York Times has reported. The claims include the Chinese Communist Party having a committee within ByteDance with kill switches and access to data, including that of US users. Yu also alleges that the company promoted anti-Japanese sentiments, stole data from rivals early on, and suppressed Hong Kong pro-democracy content.
Earlier this year a spate of organizations and governments decided to ban TikTok on official devices but explanations as to why were not forthcoming. The information now being disclosed in this case suggests that the bans were justified, especially on devices containing sensitive information.
According to Yintao Yu, ByteDance has a unit referred to as the Committee that represents China’s ruling Communist Party. It decides how “core Communist values” are promoted through ByteDance’s apps. The former executive said that this committee has a kill switch that can turn off all the company’s Chinese apps and also has access to all of ByteDance’s customer information, even that of users outside of China.
What may catch the attention of Snapchat and Instagram, in this case, is that they allegedly had their content stolen by TikTok so that it could attract users to its platform. In addition, the company allegedly created fake accounts to drive up user engagement. This could have impacted content creators’ decisions on which platforms to target their content at.
Yintao Yu was raised in China but now lives in San Francisco. As part of this lawsuit, he is demanding that ByteDance reimburse him for lost earnings, punitive damages, and 220,000 ByteDance shares that were not vested when he was dismissed. These shares would be worth tens of millions of dollars but it’s not clear how much the damages would amount to.
Source: The New York Times