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An executive who was fired by TikTok parent ByteDance back in 2018, Yintao “Roger” Yu, has filed a lawsuit against his former employer claiming that he was fired as head of engineering in the U.S. Per Bloomberg, Yu was fired after complaining to his bosses at the company about “brazenly unlawful conduct” at ByteDance. One allegation made by Yu claims that the Chinese Communist Party had a “backdoor channel” inside the company that gave it “supreme access” to all data generated by the TikTok app.

Former ByteDance executive admits the Chinese Communist Party has access to U.S. user data

This is exactly what U.S. lawmakers and officials feared when they started blocking TikTok on government devices in 34 states. Last month, Montana passed legislation that bans TikTok from being used on personal devices within state lines and also prevents the app from being offered on any app stores inside the state. The governor still needs to sign off on the bill which, if signed, would take effect in January 2024.


ByteDance said that it will vigorously fight the lawsuit while calling it “baseless.” The company also pointed out that Yu worked at the company for less than one year. A spokesman for the Chinese tech firm also said, “ByteDance is committed to respecting the intellectual property of other companies, and we acquire data in accordance with industry practices and our global policy.

Yu had approached his superiors at the company to point out that TikTok was stealing content from Instagram and Snapchat that was copyrighted. Additionally, he accused ByteDance of faking the number of users on the app to improve the metrics. And he also alleged that ByteDance was helping to spread propaganda from China’s Communist Party (CCP). The lawsuit says that Yu was “struck by the misdirection” of TikTok CEO Shou Chew’s testimony before Congress in March about TikTok’s ties to the CCP especially since Yu says that he knew the truth.
In his suit, Yu said that inside ByteDance it was known that a special committee controlled by the Chinese government had a role in the company even though the committee did not work for ByteDance. “The Committee maintained supreme access to all the company data, even data stored in the United States. After receiving criticism about access from abroad, individual engineers in China were restricted from accessing U.S. user data, but the Committee continued to have access.”

Yu’s claims contradict ByteDance’s recent letter to Congress

This contradicts correspondence written to Congress this month by ByteDance which claimed that not only hasn’t it ever shared U.S. user data with the Chinese government, it wouldn’t do it even if the CCP demanded Byte Dance to do so. In China, the government is allowed to demand that Chinese tech firms spy on its behalf. TikTok claims that it is walling off U.S. user data along with its U.S. operations with important U.S. user data protected on Oracle servers located in the states.

The complaint also goes into detail about how TikTok used software to strip videos from competitor’s platforms. “These actions were taken without the permission of the content creators and represented an unlawful effort to gain an edge against entrenched online video hosting websites,” said the filing. Yu is asking a San Francisco Superior Court judge to order TikTok to stop lifting content from other social media sites without the permission of content creators.

A resident of California, Yu was hired by ByteDance, awarded stock options, and guaranteed a payment of $600,000 in exchange for the intellectual property of his own company, Tank Exchange. But the contract required him to work for ByteDance for at least two years. The company let him well before two years was up due to what it said was a reduction in headcount; even though he says that his stock options had vested, he never received them.

Yu’s allegations could get wide play in Washington D.C. where TikTok and ByteDance have been under attack by both major political parties and the last two administrations.

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