ByteDance Made Fake Accounts Using Instagram User’s Data

ByteDance, the parent company of TikTok made fake accounts using Instagram users' data.
Image by Abhishek Mishra/Fossbytes

ByteDance, the parent company of TikTok, made fake accounts using Instagram users’ data. This big reveal comes from former ByteDance employees. BuzzFeed conducted a deep investigation and interviewed these four former employees.

The interview revealed shocking facts about the working practices of ByteDance. They labeled it as a growth hack adopted by the company to strengthen the prospects of the company’s products.

Why did ByteDance make fake accounts?

According to the interview, the fake accounts and data scrapping was all part of the “growth hacks” by ByteDance. It is undoubtedly an unethical practice disguised under false pretenses of growth hacking. It all began in 2017 when ByteDance acquired Flipagram. Flipagram was a direct rival to Instagram at one time, but ByteDance acquired it. Then it started scrapping data from the Instagram accounts of thousands of creators. It would then re-upload the same content to test how well it resonated with the audience.

ByteDance Made Fake Accounts

The employees mentioned that there were other use cases apart from blatant reposting of scrapped content. The data became the base for training its now mighty personalization algorithm. Both TikTok and Douyin use ByteDance’s “For You” algorithm to deliver befitting recommendations. ByteDance built a product without the consent of other creators and companies. Moreover, it scrapped data from platforms like Instagram, which breaches Instagram’s policies.

In addition to data scraping, it re-uploaded content on Flipagram. When BuzzFeed asked ByteDance about its alleged misuse, their spokesperson Jennifer Banks responded: “ByteDance acquired Flipagram in 2017 and operated it, and subsequently Vigo, for a short time. Flipagram and Vigo ceased operations years ago and aren’t connected to any current ByteDance products.”

So, ByteDance shunned away from the allegations and dissociated from these two products. The company even tampered with the content statistics. It increased the like and view counts, which misled creators. Altering the stats ensured that the creators would prefer Flipagram as their primary platform.

It is common for Chinese app companies to indulge in nefarious practices. What’s concerning is the late reveal of such occurrences. Despite being under heavy fire and scrutiny for their unethical business tactics, this seems to be common sight now.

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