A former Ex-ByteDance employee claims the company stole content from competitors in earlier days

New York (CNN) A former ByteDance employee has claimed he was wrongfully terminated after raising concerns about what he believes are illegal practices by the company, such as stealing content from rivals Snapchat and Instagram.

Yintao “Roger” Yu, who filed a lawsuit in San Francisco Superior Court earlier this month, worked at ByteDance, TikTok’s parent company, from August 2017 to November 2018, as chief engineering for US operations.

In a new complaint filed Friday, Yu also alleged that ByteDance engaged in a “culture of lawlessness” and was a “propaganda” arm of China, according to the New York Times.

“The commission maintained access to all company data, even data stored in the United States,” said the complaint, which was obtained by The New York Times.

The newspaper said the committee referred to a special unit of Chinese Communist Party members who were at ByteDance’s offices in Beijing.

Yu alleged that shortly after starting his business, he realized ByteDance was involved in a “global scheme” to steal from the app’s competitors like Instagram and Snapchat. Painting a picture of the company’s early days in 2018, he claimed ByteDance would take video from its competitors and use it to package its own video services.

The former employee alleged in the complaint that he was “disturbed by ByteDance’s efforts to circumvent legal and ethical lines”.

The allegations come as popular app TikTok is at risk of being banned by US lawmakers over national security concerns. Montana lawmakers voted to ban TikTok entirely in the state just weeks after CEO Xu Ziqiu spent hours testifying before Congress. And the Biden administration has threatened TikTok with a nationwide ban unless its Chinese owners sell their stakes in the company, illustrating an increasingly strained relationship between the two countries.

However, security experts say there is still no public evidence that the Chinese government has actually spied on people through TikTok, which does not operate in China.

“It’s not that we know TikTok has done anything, it’s that mistrust of China and awareness of Chinese espionage has increased,” said James Lewis, an information security expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Yu says he raised intellectual property concerns with Wenjia Zhu, then senior vice president of engineering.

“When informed of Mr. Yu’s concerns about the software, Mr. Chu dismissed these concerns, and intellectual property infringement continued unabated,” the complaint said.

Yu’s attorney, Charles Jung, said the former employee is the most senior executive to come forward publicly.

“In his view, technology companies should be run ethically and responsibly,” Young told CNN. “My client is concerned about the protection of US user data, the ethical operation of the application, and the welfare of ByteDance employees.”

In a statement to CNNAnd A ByteDance spokesperson said the company is “committed to respecting the intellectual property of other companies, and we obtain data in accordance with industry practices and our global policy.”

Yu is seeking damages such as lost profit, injunctive damages, liquidated and punitive damages.

A ByteDance spokesperson said Yu worked on an app called Flipagram while at the company, which was discontinued for work reasons.

“We plan to vigorously contest what we believe to be unsubstantiated allegations and allegations in this complaint,” the spokesperson said. “Mr. Yu worked for ByteDance Inc. for less than a year and ended his employment in July 2018,” which Yu disputes in his complaint.

CNN’s Brian Fong contributed to this report.

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