Unmasking TikTok: Inside Accusations of Data Manipulation and Propaganda

Unmasking TikTok: Inside Accusations of Data Manipulation and Propaganda
Photo by Yan Berthemy / Unsplash

Greetings, Justice Moms! It's your favorite advocate for transparency, accountability, and fairness back with another vital piece of information. This time, we're diving into the murky waters of data privacy, censorship, and propaganda concerning the Chinese tech giant, ByteDance, owner of the globally popular app, TikTok.

Recently, a former executive of ByteDance, Yintao Yu, broke his silence with damning allegations about the company's operations. Yu, who once held a prominent position as the head of engineering at ByteDance's U.S. offices, filed a wrongful termination suit that uncovers what seems like a dystopian nightmare hidden behind the fun, trendy façade of TikTok.

Couple fooling around

In a shocking revelation, Yu alleges that the Chinese government maintains a specialized unit within ByteDance, termed the "Committee". This so-called Committee's function? To guide the advancement of core Communist values within the platform, transforming TikTok into a useful tool for spreading propaganda. Yu accuses the company of yielding to requests from the Chinese Communist Party to share information, alter, or even remove specific content.

Yu's allegations come at a crucial time, as concerns over TikTok's potential national security threat intensify. The social media app, boasting about 150 million American monthly users, has been banned on government devices, with over 30 states passing similar measures. The U.S. government is currently contemplating a nationwide ban.

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The crux of the lawsuit rests on claims that ByteDance allowed the Chinese government to access data on American users. According to Yu, he personally witnessed a "backdoor channel" in the app's code, which could enable certain individuals to access user data, irrespective of its location. This means that even if TikTok data is hosted by a U.S. company on servers located within the U.S., it could potentially be accessed.

In a recent congressional committee hearing, TikTok CEO, Shou Zi Chew, heavily promoted a partnership with Oracle, called Project Texas, aimed at moving user data to servers in Texas, away from foreign influence. However, Yu argues that the location of the servers is irrelevant if the "backdoor" is still open, rendering the touted data security measures essentially ineffective.

The accusations don't stop at data manipulation. Yu also highlights a "culture of lawlessness" within ByteDance, with practices such as scraping user content from competitors like Instagram and Snapchat, and using bots to artificially inflate user engagement metrics.

Yu's revelations, if proven accurate, could cause a significant blow to TikTok's reputation and user trust. His lawsuit seeks lost past and future earnings, punitive damages, and an injunction barring ByteDance from engaging in such practices.

ByteDance's alleged manipulation of data, content, and user metrics raises critical questions about user data privacy and the integrity of the content we consume daily. As Justice Moms, we believe in the importance of vigilance and scrutiny, particularly regarding the platforms our children use. We'll continue to follow this story closely and urge our community to stay informed.

Stay vigilant, Justice Moms. After all, it's our duty to ensure a safer digital world for our children.

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