Former TikTok manager accuses companies of collaborating with Chinese authorities

Former TikTok manager accuses companies of collaborating with Chinese authorities

Shou Zi Chew, CEO of TikTok, before the House Energy and Trade Committee in Washington on March 23, 2023.

Yu Yintao’s testimony could hurt TikTok: the former technical head of ByteDance in the US accuses TikTok’s parent company of sharing certain users’ data with the Chinese authorities. According to him, the Communist Party has one “committee” within the company, which may issue instructions to censor certain individuals or access the personal information of certain users. According to Mr. Yu, who sued ByteDance in a US court in early May to contest his dismissal and supplemented his testimony in early June, the company’s Chinese engineers have access to all user communications, but also to their geographic location. their communication and their IP address. They were able to share this information with representatives of the Chinese authorities, in particular to spy on protesters in Hong Kong.

This insider statement questions TikTok’s efforts to convince the world of its independence from the Chinese state. In France, members of a Senate investigative committee insisted on this point at a hearing of platform representatives on Thursday 8 June. TikTok France’s director of public affairs, Eric Garandeau, tried to reassure them by saying, for example, that general manager Tian Zhao, a Canadian and Chinese national, did not “No operational role in the company”.

In March, American elected officials questioned TikTok’s general manager, Shou Zi Chew, who had tried to demonstrate the independence of its Beijing-based parent company ByteDance’s international platform. Unconvincing: the application, which has 150 million users in the United States and more than a billion worldwide, is still suspended in the United States, where the state of Montana has already banned it (so far without concrete effects). In December, ByteDance admitted to spying on the smartphones of two American journalists investigating against the company.

Also read the column: Article reserved for our subscribers TikTok ban in Montana: “Hatred of China is the only truly bipartisan issue in the United States today”

“Divine access” for the party

The first statement from Yu Yintao, who grew up in China but now lives in California, came out on May 12 amid a dispute over his 2018 dismissal by ByteDance. The former manager claims he was fired after he had reported: “Culture of Lawlessness” within the company, citing, for example, the theft of content from competing platforms such as Instagram or Snapchat and the creation of fake accounts to embellish company statistics. He also claims to have noticed while working at ByteDance’s Chinese headquarters that the Chinese version of TikTok, Douyin, was promoting videos inciting hatred against Japan – a common theme on Chinese social networks.

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