According to a former head of engineering at Bytedance in the United States, the company fired him after he complained to management about the company stealing user content from other platforms, primarily Instagram and Snapchat.
The dispute comes at a time when some US lawmakers are calling for a nationwide ban on ByteDance-owned app TikTok due to concerns about potential Chinese government influence over it.
In a complaint filed Friday in San Francisco state court, Yintao “Roger” Yu claimed that the Chinese tech company engaged in a worldwide scheme to steal and profit from the content of others” without seeking permission.
When Yu raised these concerns with upper management, he said they dismissed them and asked him to hide the illegal program, particularly from employees in the United States, where IP laws are stricter and class actions are more common.
ByteDance later fired him in November 2018.
Yu also claimed in his complaint that ByteDance used fictitious users to inflate its metrics and served as a useful propaganda tool for the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
He is requesting a court order preventing ByteDance from scraping content from other social media platforms.
In response to the complaint, ByteDance said, “We plan to vigorously oppose what we believe are baseless claims and allegations. Mr. Yu worked for ByteDance for less than a year.”
ByteDance also responded to the allegations of data scraping, claiming that it obtained data in accordance with industry practice and its global policy.
Montana lawmakers passed legislation in April prohibiting the short-form TikTok app from operating in the state.
In March, US lawmakers questioned TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew about potential Chinese influence, claiming that the app’s short videos were harming children’s mental health, reflecting bipartisan concerns about the app’s power over Americans.