Former ByteDance executive sues company for wrongful dismissal over alleged culture of lawlessness

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A former high-ranking executive at ByteDance, the Chinese firm behind the immensely popular TikTok platform, has filed a lawsuit against the company, charging it with wrongful dismissal. According to Yintao Yu’s testimony, he was terminated from his position for exposing what he describes as the company’s “culture of lawlessness.”

The legal action in the San Francisco court comes when political pressure has increased in the US to ban TikTok, amid concerns that the platform enables Beijing to covertly gather user data and manipulate opinions. ByteDance has denied these accusations.

In his lawsuit, Yu, who served as ByteDance’s US head of engineering, alleged that not long after joining the company in 2017, he discovered it was “stealing” videos posted on rival platforms like Instagram and Snapchat and claiming them as its own. Despite informing company leaders, Yu claims that the intellectual property infringement persisted. He was ultimately fired in November 2018.

Yu recently submitted an amendment to his initial complaint, which dates back to May 1, asserting that ByteDance also functioned “as a useful propaganda tool for the Chinese Communist Party.” According to Yu, he observed the company’s platform emphasising content featuring “hatred for Japan,” whilst downplaying posts supporting pro-democracy demonstrators in Hong Kong.

Furthermore, Yu revealed that Chinese government officials maintained a unit in the US office, which allegedly had “supreme access to all company data, even data stored in the United States.”

In an interview, Charles Jung, Yu’s attorney, spoke of his client, stating, “My client is the most senior executive at ByteDance to come forward publicly.” Jung added that Yu is particularly concerned about the protection of American user data, the app’s ethical operations, and the well-being of ByteDance’s employees.

The growing concern among US authorities has centred around access to the personal data of American users. In response, ByteDance claims that it only stores data on US-based servers. However, during a congressional hearing in Washington in late March, several lawmakers voiced scepticism over reassurances from TikTok head, Shou Zi Chew, that Beijing did not have access to US data.

The White House has even threatened to ban TikTok in the US unless ByteDance sells it to an American company.

Yintao Yu has requested the San Francisco court to issue an injunction forcing ByteDance to cease the practices outlined in the complaint, as well as award him damages and interest. He has vowed to share a “substantial part” of any awarded sums with Asian-American rights groups in the US.

ByteDance and TikTok have not yet provided any comment in response to the allegations, reports Channel News Asia.

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Alex Morgan

Alex is a 42-year-old former corporate executive and business consultant with a degree in business administration. Boasting over 15 years of experience working in various industries, including technology, finance, and marketing, Alex has acquired in-depth knowledge about business strategies, management principles, and market trends. In recent years, Alex has transitioned into writing business articles and providing expert commentary on business-related issues. Fluent in English and proficient in data analysis, Alex strives to deliver well-researched and insightful content to readers, combining practical experience with a keen analytical eye to offer valuable perspectives on the ever-evolving business landscape.

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