TikTok owner ByteDance allegedly used fake accounts to grow Flipagram app

Sam Comrie
an image of tiktok and flipagramTikTok, Flipagram

TikTok owner ByteDance is under fire for allegedly stealing content from rival social media platforms in a bid to make their app, Flipagram, more popular. 

ByteDance is the parent company behind viral video giant TikTok, but this isn’t their only content venture. Flipagram, one of the developer’s sister apps, was once intended to be a worthy competitor to TikTok, offering a similar creation experience.

Now, allegations claim that ByteDance supposedly created fake social media accounts with content stolen from existing Instagram and Snapchat accounts to try and make Flipagram a success.

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TikTok logo on a dark backgroundUnsplash: Alexander Shatov
TikTok is often viewed as a successor to Vine because of its variety of content.

ByteDance accused of boosting Flipagram with fake accounts

According to internal documents and ex-employee statements acquired by Buzzfeed News, ByteDance allegedly made fake accounts to boost Flipagram’s popularity. Without the consent of Instagram and Snapchat users, ByteDance filled these accounts with content from multiple accounts, including profile descriptions and usernames.

The allegations come from four former employees of Flipagram, now renamed Vigo Video. Described as “growth hacks” by the employees, ByteDance sorted through over 10,000 videos a day, which were then used to manipulate the “For You” section of the app.

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an image of bytedanceByteDance
Beijing-based ByteDance is a multinational internet technology company.

In response, a spokesperson for the ByteDance, Jennifer Banks said “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.”

Internal documents specify that ByteDance began copying content in 2017, with the action itself described as an “objective and key result” by an engineering team within the company.

Flipagram was acquired in January 2017 by ByteDance, the same year that they also purchased TikTok predecessor Musical.ly.

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About The Author

Sam Comrie is a former Dexerto journalist based in South Yorkshire, UK. He has an MA in Multimedia Journalism and joined Dexerto in 2021 after producing content for NME and Red Bull Gaming.