A thorough investigation into their internal affairs revealed that ByteDance, the parent company of the widely-known app TikTok, had several of its employees track real-time location of journalists covering the company.
With this, they also gained access to their IP addresses and user data. They later used the data to determine if they were in contact with any other ByteDance employees, which would signal a leak of information.
Report Confirms TikTok Tracked Journalists’ Live Location Through GPS
Several Forbes journalists were tracked as part of this wicked campaign, resulting in the sacking of Chris Lepitak, the company’s chief internal auditor.
He led the team responsible for the investigations.
"I don't know when they first tried to track me, but I am comforted by the fact that I never gotten into using TikTok the app," @ebakerwhite tells @_brittanylewis after ByteDance confirmed it used TikTok to monitor journalists, including her. https://t.co/EpuyLQ5UMm pic.twitter.com/yQ0QkYDKuQ
— Forbes (@Forbes) December 22, 2022
ByteDance CEO Rubo Liang responded to this massive controversy, claiming he was deeply disappointed when he found out what his company was involved with, almost as if he wasn’t personally aware of it.
Liang continued, stating it will take a long time to rebuild the public trust which was undermined by the actions of a few individuals. He hopes these developments will be a learning experience for us all.
It’s hard to say there was any trust though, considering a large portion of conservative Americans denounced the TikTok app from the very start, labeling it as a “Chinese spy app,” in line with what former President Donald Trump called it.
WARNING: Communist China is using #TikTok to spy on you and your children.
Banning it is the ONLY way to protect YOUR privacy, family and our NATIONAL SECURITY. pic.twitter.com/U1IlOyAPfe
— Rick Scott (@SenRickScott) December 17, 2022
Forbes switching up their opinion on the app
Not only did this internal report reveal a toxic practice that the company was employing, but it also shed light on the company’s links back to China; there was already suspicion that they were sending information to the country.
With this incident being as big as it is, ByteDance couldn’t even dare to deny the accusations.
Instead, they immediately jumped to defend themselves against any further claims, stating TikTok had never been used to target or track any US government officials, activists, or other journalists, adding that the app doesn’t have these capabilities.
Unfortunately, it was already too late; a series of internal e-mails reveals the company’s CEO acknowledged his employees’ wrongdoings.
BREAKING: #TikTok admits to using app data to spy on journalists including @CristinaCriddle & people connected to them.
Tracked their movements.
By @MsHannahMurphyhttps://t.co/OBq1xbrTj7 pic.twitter.com/rAoIfAC0zX
— John Scott-Railton (@jsrailton) December 22, 2022
This spy campaign started when Forbes decided to take a deep dive into ByteDance’s employee roster, finding almost three hundred of the company’s employees previously worked for Chinese state media publications.
We all know how these companies conduct their work and which country they always target in propaganda pieces.
To defend themselves, the company’s spokesperson, Jennifer Banks, stated ByteDance only hires based on an individual’s capabilities of performing the job they signed up for, which is obviously a blatant lie.
The fact they’re going through all this trouble just to hide their connection to China is absurd. It leaves a lot to be desired, considering this “big reveal” was basically old news for the rest of us.