SAN FRANCISCO, May 16, 2023 (BSS/AFP) - ByteDance, the Chinese company that owns TikTok, on Monday said it would fight allegations that it fired an executive for sounding the alarm over what he called the company's "culture of lawlessness."
Yintao Yu has sued ByteDance in a San Francisco court as political pressure has been growing in the US to ban TikTok. Critics say the popular platform allows Beijing to covertly collect users' data and influence their opinions -- something the company denies.
"We plan to vigorously oppose what we believe are baseless claims and allegations in this complaint," a ByteDance spokesperson said in an email to AFP.
In his suit, which was filed this month, Yu says that he discovered shortly after being hired in 2017 that ByteDance "was stealing" videos published on rival sites like Instagram and Snapchat and presenting them as its own.
Yu, who was ByteDance's US head of engineering, says he notified company leaders about the problem, but the "intellectual property infringement continued unabated."
He was fired in November 2018.
ByteDance said Yu worked for ByteDance Inc. for less than a year and that during his time at the company he "worked on an app called Flipagram, which was discontinued years ago for business reasons".
"ByteDance is committed to respecting the intellectual property of other companies, and we acquire data in accordance with industry practices and our global policy," the company added.
On Friday, Yu submitted an amendment to his original complaint -- which was filed May 1 -- accusing ByteDance of serving "as a useful propaganda tool for the Chinese Communist Party."
The issue of access to personal data on American users has aroused growing concern among US authorities. In response, the company says it stores that data only on US-based servers.
At a congressional hearing in Washington in late March, TikTok boss Shou Zi Chew assured largely hostile US legislators that Beijing had no access to the data.