To promote the development of Flipagram application, TikTok parent company Bytedance has collected profiles, videos, usernames and other content from Instagram and other social media platforms. Buzzfeed that the Chinese company took “hundreds of thousands” of accounts to obtain content without user consent. Flipagram, which was acquired by ByteDance in 2017, allows users to create short slideshow videos set to music – a sort of simplified version of TikTok and other short-form video apps. The app has been renamed to .
According to former ByteDance employees interviewed by Flipagram, the strategy is seen as a “growth blow” for Flipagram, allowing it to expand its user base. Buzzfeed. According to a former employee, Flipagram gets up to 10,000 videos a day from high-priority countries. The three platforms from which Flipagram allegedly took away content were Instagram, Snapchat, and Musical.ly (owned by ByteDance and later acquired by TikTok). A former Bytedance employee disputed that Instagram was involved in the scandal due to the incompatibility of their video sizes at the time.
The employees also allege that content scraped from major US social media platforms was then used to build Bytedance’s “For You” algorithm. TikTok has yet to comment on whether Flipagram’s stolen data was used to build TikTok’s “For You” algorithm.
The collection of publicly available data is not illegal in itself. Many social platforms found “creative” ways to grow their audiences in the early days, like collecting external content, creating Fake profile or send bulk email potential users. But companies can also ban illegal shaving in their terms and conditions for users, which Instagram and Snapchat both do. Breach of such contracts can often lead to litigation.
There was an irony to Bytedance in the early days of allegedly pulling data from Instagram, since Reels is Instagram’s attempt to appeal to TikTok’s audience and instead become a home for older TikToks. To prevent Reels from driving more traffic to its rival app, Instagram recently announced it will no longer advertise TikToks.
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