TikTok has admitted to quietly bankrolling a high-profile lawsuit brought by its users against Montana’s state-wide ban on the video-sharing app — a detail that the company failed to mention previously.
Last month, Montana officially become the first state to completely ban Chinese-owned video app TikTok in the U.S.
On May 17, Republican Governor Greg Gianforte signed in a bill to ban TikTok from operating in the state to protect residents from alleged intelligence gathering by China — the first-of-its-kind in the nation.
However, hours after Montana’s total ban was signed into law, five TikTok content creators sued the state — arguing the bill is an unconstitutional violation of free speech rights.
The group of TikTok users claimed that the new law far outstripped Montana’s legal authority as a state and sought to overturn the ban.
At the time, TikTok spokesperson Brooke Oberwetter declined to comment on the lawsuit and also declined to say whether the company helped coordinate the complaint.
Instead, the TikTok users’ lawsuit appeared to be a grass-roots effort — especially given that TikTok soon filed its own separate lawsuit against Montana and its ban.
According to a report by The New York Times on Tuesday, TikTok has finally admitted to financing the users’ lawsuit against Montana and covering legal fees for the group of five TikTok creators.
While TikTok is funding the lawsuit, the company claims it is not paying the plaintiffs directly for their role.
Although, two of the TikTok users who are suing Montana say they were solicited by TikTok’s lawyers to sign on in exchange for free representation.
“Many creators have expressed major concerns both privately and publicly about the potential impact of the Montana law on their livelihoods,” Jodi Seth, a spokesperson for TikTok, says in a statement to The New York Times.
“We support our creators through various programs and have an ongoing dialogue about their presence on TikTok.
“Throughout this process, many creators have expressed major concerns both privately and publicly about the potential impact of the Montana law on their livelihoods. We will support our creators in fighting for their constitutional rights.”
Although discussion had quieted in recent weeks, TikTok — which has over 100 million American users — is still facing the threat of a potential nationwide ban in the U.S. The Biden administration has demanded that the Chinese-owned TikTok be sold or be banned across the country.
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