TikTok’s algorithm is based on vast quantities of content which was taken from Instagram and Snapchat without their knowledge or consent.
The report cited information from four former ByteDance (TikTok’s parent company) employees.
ByteDance used the content to train the algorithm that recommends content to its users based on their interests, which underpins the app and is the envy of social media rivals Facebook.
The approach was reportedly part of ByteDance’s “growth hack” strategy to expand its poor-performing Flipagram platform, BuzzFeed said
Flipagram was acquired by ByteDance in January 2017, before it was renamed Vigo. It was then ultimately shut down in late 2020.
Before it ceased operations, ByteDance used the data from Instagram, Snapchat, and then-popular platform Musical.ly to populate its site in a bid to entice users, according to BuzzFeed News.
According to the former workers, the Chinese Big Tech giant first created fake accounts before populating them with short videos from its Chinese apps that were “not too Chinese”.
However when that strategy failed in its goal to attract new users, ByteDance started taking short-form videos, usernames, profile pictures, and profile descriptions from Instagram, Snapchat, and Musical.ly, BuzzFeed News said.
Users of Instagram started to see their content appearing on Flipagram without their knowledge or permission as a result of the “growth hacking” strategy.
This was not the first time ByteDance had got itself in legal difficulties over the infringement of intellectual property, last year it was sued by tech giant Tencent for copyright infringement.