Creators defend key Internet law to the Supreme Court
By Kate Tummarello, Executive Director, Engine Advocacy & Foundation
Internet creators, storytellers, educators, authors, artists, and more joined together in defense of a foundational Internet law currently being challenged in front of the Supreme Court. Through its Digital Entrepreneur Project, Engine helped organize a first-of-its-kind brief filed with the court today—with 18 creators and the Authors Alliance (which works with authors who want to share their creations broadly)—arguing that Section 230 has helped make it possible for anyone, anywhere in the world to launch and grow a business and build an audience online. The brief warns that changes to Section 230 that make it harder for Internet platforms to host and recommend user content will harm the millions of digital entrepreneurs who create and share content online.
Read the full brief here—filed by attorneys at Keker & Van Nest — and read more about the creators who signed on and told their stories below:
Bernard Hsu (Washington, DC)
“My videos tell stories in medicine, often exploring rare diseases and poisonings, which is where many patients face disparities in getting the care they need. My videos tell the stories of the patients, but they also teach the science and medicine of their diagnosis and disease. Millions of people watch and learn from these videos, which has tangible impacts on research studies at major academic centers and patient advocacy.
I helped shed light on the late Dr. Kate Hendricks Thomas, who was diagnosed with military service-related breast cancer and who inspired a bill that was signed into law last year that requires Veterans Affairs to conduct mammograms for women military members who’ve had toxic exposures. I also used my platform to talk about the case of Herman Connor, who suffered from a sickle cell-associated kidney cancer that was thought to be rare but is now known to be underrecognized, as it primarily affects young men of African descent, and patients usually have Stage 4 cancer by the time symptoms appear. That video was seen by more than 10 million people, and, as a result, research studies on the disease that had struggled to find participants were fully enrolled.
I have been producing content online for seven years now. My content wasn’t reaching many people until recommendation mechanisms recognized that people did want to hear these stories and did want to learn about human biology. Now my videos get millions of views. I wouldn’t be able to reach millions of people who want to hear these stories and learn about medicine and their own bodies without the Internet.”
Harry Jho (Orlando, FL)
“As former teachers, we started Mother Goose Club to help address the fact that the nursery rhyme, a key teaching tool, was fading out of the public consciousness. We are the rare first generation creators who started our business before anyone could even imagine a platform like YouTube. We spent years trying to get our content distributed by traditional media platforms, with very limited success, but being able to share our content online changed that. Over the last 15 years, we have been blessed to be able to build a network of channels that have collectively amassed over 30 billion views and 30 million subscribers. We have produced live action, animation, gameplay, and how-to videos for preschoolers and their parents and produced over a dozen albums of music and developed substantial followings on every music service.
We’ve seen so many videos of families and schools all over the world using our songs to teach their children English. Every piece of content on YouTube can be accessed anywhere in the world by anyone with an Internet-connected device without the need to login to a subscription or otherwise pay for service. To have helped children all over the world through our channels — and to have helped start a new content vertical for an industry composed of hundreds of creators worldwide — is the very definition of online success.”
Hassan Khadair (Birmingham, Alabama)
“I am a comedy creator who popularized the comedy puppet genre. As an Asian American voice growing up in the landscape of post 9/11 America, my voice and perspective is unique in relating to the struggle of other Asian Americans growing up now. Thanks to social media, I get to be the role model I wish I had when I was a kid.
It is through the discoverability mechanisms on these platforms that my voice is heard. Without YouTube’s recommended feed or TikToks’ “For You” page I would’ve been unable to garner any kind of audience online. On YouTube, specifically, I have over 2 million subscribers and found a wonderful, supportive community. Across all social media, I have 8 million followers and 4 billion views.”
Rena Malik (Ellicott City, MD)
“I am a urologist and pelvic surgeon. I create evidence-based content about bladder health, sexual health, and other urologic conditions. My content debunks commonly held misconceptions, offers information you never knew you needed, and answers questions were too embarrassed to ask. Through my content I’ve been able to reach nearly 200 million views allowing people to learn, feel empowered about their health, and seek out appropriate medical care when necessary. I reach over 1 million viewers per week, which is many more than the 40–50 patients per week I can see in my clinic.
So much content is shared online every day, it would be nearly impossible to find interested followers and reach an audience of this size without recommendations. Recommendations are also helpful to point people towards helpful, accurate information and away from harmful misinformation which can, in the medical field, cause people to delay seeking necessary care, spend money on useless supplements, and use potentially harmful treatments. In the era where medical misinformation is rampant and it’s easy to prey on people with insecurities, it is extremely important to be able to share my content and disseminate accurate, comprehensive, and evidence-based content.”
Jordan Maron (Los Angeles, CA)
“I have primarily created gaming content for the last 12+ years, which has allowed me to watch the evolution of the online video space as it has gone from niche to mainstream. I’ve accumulated between 4–5 billion views across my channels in that time. It has enabled me to do this full time for 10 of those years and help to create work for many people.
Despite having an older channel in relative terms, around 50% of my viewership still comes from accounts not yet subscribed to my channel. Much of the growth has been driven by content recommendation mechanisms. This allows for content to reach new viewers. Throughout the years, I’ve seen ups and downs in my viewership as a result of recommendations, but I know at the end of the day that the audience I’ve built wouldn’t be there without my content being recommended to new people.
If the way platforms host and recommend content had to change, I’ve been fortunate enough that I would probably turn out fine. But for many others who have taken a risk to build a business and are trying to find a foothold, not being able to see their content find an audience would be immediately disastrous.”
Kevin McCarty (Michigan)
“We are a family content page that makes a living through brand deals on social media as well as ad revenue on YouTube. Over the last year, we’ve grown over 5 million subscribers and seen more than 8 billion views. We have worked extremely hard making content over the last year, and it’s generated more than one million dollars. Without Internet platforms, I wouldn’t have the ability to provide for myself and my family like that. Prior to my YouTube channel, I was a teacher for 15 years. It’s amazing to be compensated for my talent and my content the way I am now.”
Kati Morton (Austin, TX)
“I started my channel over 10 years ago, and over that time, I have been able to reach people all over the world. I would never have been able to reach a global audience without the power of YouTube and the Internet. I would be limited to who I could see in my private practice, making it so that I could only reach 30–40 people a week. Now we have over one million subscribers, and I’ve written two books and had speaking engagements all over the world. We’ve also hired four people to assist with content ideas, editing, and scheduling. None of this would have been possible without the help of YouTube and social media as a whole.
Members of my community will tell me that they found me when searching for an answer to a mental health question and seeing my videos in recommendations from YouTube. Without the ability to host and recommend correct, helpful content, I worry someone struggling with mental health issues will look for answers and not find them, or even find unhelpful, harmful information.”
Emily Scott Robinson (Telluride, CO)
“I might not have a successful career as a touring artist without the Internet and my ability to share my music with fans around the country! From the very beginning of my career in 2015, I started sharing my music for free on Bandcamp and Youtube. I booked all my own tours for the first four years through email and social media contacts. My community of fans, generated largely by discovery on Youtube, Instagram, Spotify and other streaming services, has personally funded the making of my two biggest albums, both of which helped me break into the music scene, receive national press and publicity, and sign a record deal. In April 2021 via Kickstarter, my fans fully funded my new album in less than 24 hours and ultimately doubled my goal amount. I was able to expand my project, hire a videographer and photographer, pay my musicians and producer more, and cover merchandise expenses. Being able to freely share and distribute my music on the internet is essential to my career as a musician.”
Tim Schmoyer (Cincinnati, OH)
“I have been creating on YouTube since 2006, a few months after it was launched. Through my own channel, I gained a lot of knowledge and experience and was able to help other creators — including big, household-name brands and smaller creators — with strategies to grow their audience on the platform. In 2013, I founded an agency called Video Creators where we worked with thousands of YouTube creators to grow their online audience. I’ve seen firsthand how transformative Internet platforms can be for creators by opening the door for them to grow an online audience. In September of this year, I sold the agency to vidIQ and am now working on building teams for AI and human coaching for YouTube creators.”
Rachel Smith (Philadelphia, PA)
“I make educational content for those learning English as a second language, focusing on speaking skills. I have 4.5 million subscribers, and I’ve heard from my followers that my content has helped them feel more comfortable in everyday conversions and even get promoted at work.
My audience has grown because people can search and find my content. People recognize they need help with their pronunciation or listening comprehension, and they look for online resources to help. My lessons on YouTube are free and students can watch as many times as they need to absorb the lesson and improve their English.”
Engine is a non-profit technology policy, research, and advocacy organization that bridges the gap between policymakers and startups. Engine works with government and a community of thousands of high-technology, growth-oriented startups across the nation to support the development of technology entrepreneurship through economic research, policy analysis, and advocacy on local and national issues.