October 3, 2023

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Yintao “Roger” Yu, a former ByteDance govt primarily based in California, filed a lawsuit in opposition to his former employer alleging an inventory of wrongdoings. In keeping with Yu, ByteDance has stolen content material from different creators on-line, discriminated in opposition to staff, and inflated its engagement metrics.

A placing allegation Yu made in opposition to ByteDance has been extremely suspected however but to be confirmed. Yu alleges that the Chinese language Communist Celebration (CCP), the ruling political get together in China, can and has accessed TikTok consumer knowledge.

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Yu alleges that the CCP makes use of ByteDance as a political propaganda instrument and cites two examples through which he witnessed ByteDance promote or demote content material on TikTok that aligned with the CCP’s political objectives.

In keeping with the court docket filings, “Mr. Yu noticed that ByteDance has been conscious of the CCP’s requests to share data, and even to raise or take away content material on the request of the CCP.”

Yu alleges that ByteDance promoted content material that expressed hatred for Japan, and in 2018, ByteDance demoted content material that expressed assist for political protests in Hong Kong. Yu alleges this was doable in Hong Kong as a result of the CCP monitored activists’ places through backdoor knowledge entry.

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Yu says that the identical propagandist strategies ByteDance facilitated in Hong Kong may very well be deployed within the US, as US TikTok consumer knowledge can be accessible to the CCP through backdoor entry. Yu additionally alleges that the CCP can entry this knowledge even when a US firm hosts it on US soil.

This allegation hints at TikTok’s billion-dollar funding, Venture Texas, a collaboration between TikTok and US SaaS firm Oracle, to switch and oversee all US TikTok consumer knowledge on US soil.

If Yu’s allegations are true, meaning Venture Texas can’t restrict or block the Chinese language authorities’s entry to US consumer knowledge.

In March, TikTok CEO Shou Chew testified in entrance of Congress and pressured that Venture Texas would assuage lawmakers’ considerations concerning the CCP accessing US TikTok knowledge. Yu says he “was struck by the misdirection” of Chew’s testimony regarding Venture Texas.

In keeping with Yu’s submitting, storing US consumer knowledge on US soil doesn’t imply the CCP can’t entry the info, and the one approach to make sure China can’t entry the info is to close the backdoor.

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ByteDance owns each TikTok and Douyin, the Chinese language model of TikTok that solely operates in China. The Chinese language authorities has strict guidelines for the Chinese language web, and in line with Yu, one among them is that tech corporations should flip over consumer knowledge to the federal government.

Yu says that ByteDance extremely values Douyin and TikTok, however each are in danger as a result of this regulation. He alleges that if ByteDance doesn’t enable the CCP entry to its consumer knowledge, the federal government will shut down Douyin in retaliation.

Though TikTok is separate from Douyin, ByteDance’s operations are primarily based in China, and the corporate should keep relations with the CCP to maintain Douyin accessible in China. Nevertheless, TikTok’s destiny within the US and worldwide is in peril, ought to it’s true that the CCP can entry consumer knowledge.

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In one other part of his swimsuit, Yu alleges that the CCP has a particular workplace inside ByteDance, known as the Committee. He says the Committee screens the corporate, may shut down operations at any second, and maintains entry to firm knowledge.

Yu says an engineer in Beijing may entry US consumer knowledge, even when it have been saved on a server within the US. After this observe was scrutinized by American lawmakers, Beijing engineers’ entry to US knowledge was revoked, however the Committee’s entry remained.

TikTok declined to handle Yu’s allegations, however a ByteDance spokesperson discredited the allegations by mentioning that Yu didn’t work for TikTok however for Flipagram, one other ByteDance-owned app.

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ByteDance’s spokesperson questioned Yu’s intentions by mentioning that Yu was terminated from Flipagram in 2018 and is now coming ahead along with his allegations.

In keeping with CNN, many safety consultants say Yu’s allegations are the primary bits of proof that the CCP spies on TikTok customers. Specialists additionally say these allegations could justify the push to ban the app within the US.

Nevertheless, these allegations are present in a wrongful termination lawsuit and don’t provide any additional proof, like inner memos or messages. Yu is the primary former ByteDance worker to publicly allege that the connection between ByteDance and the CCP is simply too shut for consolation.

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