On November 26, a judgment published on the website China Judgments Online showed that two employees of ByteDance were sentenced for bribery in the first trial court of Haidian District People’s Court of Beijing. The workers had taken a bribe totaling 580,000 yuan ($91,015) in exchange for pushing certain content to the “hot list” of the Douyin app, the Chinese mainland version of TikTok.
According to the judgment, both defendants were born in the 1990s. From September 2018 to August 2020, defendant Wang held the position of hot spot operation at Beijing Micro Broadcasting Vision Technology Co., Ltd., was responsible for the trending topic report of Douyin, and then transferred to the position of content planning.
From January 2019 to August 2020, defendant Zhang held the position of hot spot operation in Beijing Zitiao Network Technology Co., Ltd., and was responsible for the trending topic report of Douyin. According to the judgment, Beijing Micro Broadcasting Vision Technology Co., Ltd. and Beijing Zitiao Network Technology Co., Ltd. are both affiliated companies of ByteDance.
On September 3, 2020, the two defendants voluntarily surrendered themselves to the public security organs. Afterwards, Wang’s relatives returned 364,950 yuan and Zhang returned 220,100 yuan.
The court held that the actions of the two defendants constituted the crime of bribing. The defendant Wang was sentenced to one year and two months in prison and fined 20,000 yuan, while defendant Zhang was sentenced to one year in prison, suspended for one year and six months, and fined 20,000 yuan.