TikTok, the popular social media platform, has been accused of allowing China’s government to access all data, including that stored on servers in the United States. The accusations claim that a special unit called the “committee,” made up of members of the Chinese Communist Party, can access all TikTok data in the US and monitor all apps of TikTok’s parent company, Bytedance. The accusation comes from a former employee who is suing the company for wrongful dismissal. He alleges that Bytedance created armies of bots to increase user numbers in the early days of TikTok and stole intellectual property from other companies for its own profit.
The former employee also claims that the “committee” can completely switch off all Chinese apps and promotes dealing with basic communist values. He alleges that the engineers have built a backdoor for accessing US data, making the geographic location of stored user data irrelevant. Furthermore, he justifies the accusation of “lawlessness” within Bytedance with the claim that the founder of Bytedance bribed a high-ranking Chinese government official responsible for regulating the internet.
Additionally, the former employee alleges that during his tenure, engineers from the Chinese variant of TikTok, “Douyin,” changed the algorithm to give content with “hatred of Japan” greater reach and higher ratings while limiting supportive contributions to pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong. The former employee claims that there was no debate about this and it was just done.
The former employee is demanding compensation for his loss of earnings and 220,000 Bytedance shares worth tens of millions. The lawsuit and allegations come amid investigations by the US government into Bytedance, five years after the release of the social media platform.