Yinato Yu, a former executive of ByteDance, the parent company of TikTok, has come out recently and declared that TikTok is a propaganda tool used by the Chinese government.
This comes as TikTok is being scrutinized by the US government, as many states consider banning TikTok altogether.
According to Yu, the company promoted and suppressed content that was favorable to the Chinese government, which would allow them to subtly manipulate the views of its users under the guidance of a simple content algorithm.
For example, Yu alleges that ByteDance suppressed content that was favorable to the Hong Kong protests while promoting content that was favorable to the Chinese government. He also reported that it promoted content that was hateful toward Japan.
On top of content manipulation, Yu claims the Chinese government also allegedly has access to all of ByteDance’s company data — even the data being stored legally in the US. The Chinese government also maintains the power to control the app, including shutting it down at will.
Even more, he alleges that they scrape content off of competitors’ websites and upload it to TikTok to build further engagement from its users using software they developed. While the software was modified at some point, he alleges that ByteDance continues to scrape information off users.
Yinato Yu served as the former head of engineering for ByteDance’s US operations for a little over one year (from August 2017 through November 2018) but was fired for disclosing the wrongful conduct he saw within the company. The allegations were made in a complaint that was part of a larger wrongful termination lawsuit that he filed earlier in May.
TikTok maintains that it never provided the Chinese government with any US data. The Biden administration has continued its crackdown on cybersecurity, telling Chinese owners to sell their shares or their apps would be banned across the US.
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