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Hageman Says Big Tech Law Changes Needed Even With Elon Musk Purchase Of Twitter

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By Clair McFarland, Staff Writer

Federal laws guaranteeing free speech rights on social media outlets such as Twitter are needed regardless of the ownership of those outlets, according to congressional candidate Harriet Hageman.

Hageman, reacting to the announcement that frequent Twitter critic Elon Musk has become Twitter’s largest shareholder, said she still believes Congress needs to draft free speech laws for such operations.

“Elon Musk is a great innovator and disruptor of the status quo,” Hageman wrote in a Tuesday email to Cowboy State Daily. “We don’t know what impact he will have on Twitter, but right now the platform is an obvious, aggressive opponent of true freedom of expression.” 

Musk, the CEO of Tesla, is joining the Twitter board of directors after years of railing against Twitter’s content policy, which he has openly called censorship. His 9.2% ownership of the company, which was announced Monday, makes him Twitter’s largest shareholder.

Former president Donald Trump, attorney Sidney Powell, entrepreneur Marjorie Taylor Greene, former baseball player Aubrey Huff and satire forum Babylon Bee all have been suspended from Twitter, which cited its content policies against false or manipulated information in making the suspensions. 

“You may not deceptively share synthetic or manipulated media that are likely to cause harm,” reads Twitter’s content policy, along with other stipulations.  

Town Square 

A few days before his acquisition of Twitter stock, Musk repeated his assertion that Twitter serves as a “town square” for voicing opinions and must be committed to allowing freedom of speech.

“Given that Twitter serves as the de facto public town square, failing to adhere to free speech principles fundamentally undermines democracy,” he tweeted on March 26. “What should be done?” 

As a Cheyenne attorney, Hageman has promoted the recognition of Twitter and Facebook as “town square” giants that should be forced by federal law to guarantee free speech rights.

Hageman lobbied in 2021 for approval of a bill in the Wyoming Legislature that would have recognized the sites as influential enough to fall subject to First Amendment protections for their users.  

The bill would have forbidden “discrimination based on viewpoint, race, religion and location by interactive computer services, social media platforms and businesses as specified.” 

The bill died in the House Judiciary Committee, where members worried it would amount to government restrictions on private businesses.

Hageman, an opponent to U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney for the Republican nomination to Wyoming’s lone U.S. House seat, told Cowboy State Daily on Tuesday that she feels the laws around social media still need to be revised.  

“Social media has absolutely become the modern-day town square,” wrote Hageman, “where free speech should be at its most unfettered. It ought to offend every American that a handful of Silicon Valley billionaires can restrict how people can express themselves.”  

But she suggested that the change needs addressed at the federal level as well. 

Hageman pointed specifically to a provision of the Communications Decency Act, “Section 230,” which specifies that operators of interactive computer services — such as Twitter and Facebook — cannot be held responsible for what is said on their platforms.

“What’s been at issue has been removing the protections social media companies enjoy in federal law that say they are not publishers, and therefore are not responsible for the content their users post,” she wrote. “Some have called for the complete removal of those protections, but that would have unintended consequences.”  

Sites like Twitter, Hageman wrote, may “censor even more aggressively” if Section 230 was removed.

Hageman said she hopes instead as a member of Congress to reform laws “to reflect the rise of social media’s power, because (the laws) were written before it gained such prominence. 

“Our goal,” she continued, “must be to protect free speech so that no one’s voice is silenced because of their political views.”  

Twitter Poised for Change 

Three days before his acquisition, Musk posted to Twitter a survey asking users if Twitter “rigorously adheres” to free speech. Of respondents, 70.4 % marked “no,” and 29.6% marked “yes.”  

Twitter’s stock has gained by 35% since Musk announced that he’s now the largest shareholder in the company. 

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Wyoming Companies Working To Provide High Speed Internet To Even Most Remote Communities

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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

In this modern, high-tech world, access to the internet is essential. Whether it’s for streaming movies or doing homework, it’s almost impossible to live or work without broadband.

But in Wyoming, urban areas and solid wi-fi signals are few and far between. So the Wyoming Business Council is working hard to bridge the gap.

“I think a lot of Wyoming – I don’t think that there’s a lack of service entirely, but it’s underserved,” said Kristin Fong, Northwest Regional Director for the Wyoming Business Council. “So we’re a little slower, maybe, than other areas across the United States. And broadband is needed in order to grow businesses, in order to compete with other states that are making waves and growing constantly.”

Fong pointed out that because more and more people are working remotely and because schools are relying more heavily on internet-based applications, there has been an increased demand for broadband service.

“I mean, I’m on the internet all day long,” she said, “whether it be looking on your phone for directions on how to get somewhere, or checking your emails. And so for schools and teachers, educators, and college students, obviously, that’s a huge need, especially when classrooms are working remotely or hybrid.

“But we’re seeing a huge influx of people moving to the state, and they’re able to work remotely,” she continued. “And so, depending on where they want to live, there’s obviously a need for them to be able to access broadband. There’s huge demand, as much demand as there is for housing.”

Several companies around the state are working to address that demand. TCT West, based in the small town of Basin, has led the charge in northern Wyoming to increase access to broadband signals.

Richard Wardell, Executive Director for TCT West, said TCT has moved past the traditional copper wiring to fiber optics, which increases upload and download speeds exponentially.

“Where we offer fiber services, we have gigabit and potentially even multiple gigabit speeds capable,” he said. “And so we’re at that paradigm shift of moving from the old technology of copper, transitioning to fiber, which means when we move to that direction, we’re able to deliver gigabit and above to those customers that can touch the fiber.”

Wardell noted that with fiber optics, distance is not an issue, which is important in a state where communities lie miles apart.

“In the DSL (digital subscriber line) days, if you’re over 4,000 feet from the electronics, you basically would be considered underserved by today’s standards, because you can’t receive at least 25 (megabytes per second download) by 3 (mbps upload),” he said. “But distance changes all that with fiber. And so now, if we can get fiber to your home, we can provide 100 by 100 very easily. And the gigabit is all kind of all the same at that point.”

Wardell pointed out that TCT is working hard to expand that service – even in remote locations such as Ten Sleep, Hyattville and Manderson.

In 2019, TCT was awarded a federal government contract through the “Connect America” program to expand broadband services to homes in rural areas in north-central Wyoming.

“Recently with a ‘Connect Wyoming’ build we (took fiber optics to homes) between Manderson and Worland,” Wardell said. “We have some fiber services in Basin and in Greybull, and we did a big build in Shell. Also portions of Lovell, we did quite a bit of work in Cowley, and we took services from Deaver towards Powell.”

The Wyoming Business Council, in recognizing the need for greater access to internet service in this primarily rural state, has come up with a way for residents to be their own advocates.

“So, we’ve got a Broadband Advisory Council, which is a group of local community leaders spread around the state weighing in on how that looks, and where we need the service,” Fong said. “And they’ve put together a very cool, very useful tool, so that we get a better understanding of what service looks like in all of the places that we’re using broadband. It’s getting the evidence that we need in order to prove the need.” 

The speed test, which can be found on the Business Council’s website, allows residents to submit the internet speed at their particular location. Fong said that the data allows the Business Council to prioritize where to focus their efforts on advocating for more access to broadband signals for residents and businesses around Wyoming.

“I think the key is to take the speed test really frequently, at different times of day and in different locations,” she said. “You can take it on your laptop at home, you can take it on your tablet, while you’re trying to watch movies at night, you take it when you’re at school, trying to do classwork, and take it at your place of business. 

“Take it as many times as you can in as many locations as you can,” she continued. “If we can take measurements of what that service looks like across the state, then we’ll have a better idea of where we need to pinpoint and where we need to increase activity.”

Wardell added that the expansion of high-speed internet service to more rural locations is a draw for younger people to move to Wyoming.

“Without internet, you’re not going to attract young families that have the ability to telecommute and telehealth,” he said. “You’re not going to attract people, if you don’t have the ability to have broadband. And so if you look at attracting businesses, attracting families, broadband plays a key role in all of that.”

In 2021, the website WhistleOut.com reported that Wyoming saw a 62.6 percent increase in average internet speed across the state. 

But the work to blanket the state in high-speed, reliable internet access continues, according to Fong.

“If we’re in a small town like Meeteetse, and the school superintendent is telling me that they can’t be checking their email from their home at the same time that their child is trying to zoom class, that’s really important information to gather and to bring back to Cheyenne,” she said.

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Wyoming Crypto Expert Says Trump is Dead-Wrong on Bitcoin

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State

The founder of a Wyoming financial company that focuses on digital assets such as Bitcoin had just two words after she heard former President Donald Trump’s claims that Bitcoin is a scam.

“Ok boomer,” Caitlin Long tweeted in response to Trump’s comments on Fox on Monday.

Trump appeared on Fox with Stuart Varney on Monday morning and discussed certain types of investment, but the former president was not on board with Bitcoin.

“Bitcoin, it just seems like a scam,” he said. “I don’t like it because it’s another currency competing against the dollar. I want the dollar to be the currency of the world, that’s what I’ve always said.”

Long, a Wyoming native who has worked to make digital currency more accessible in the state, was none too pleased to hear these comments.

“ugh, ok #boomer. #bitcoin is many things, but a scam is not one of them,” Long wrote on Twitter, retweeting the clip of Trump’s comments.

Bitcoin is a digital currency that eliminates the need for traditional intermediaries, such as a bank or the government, to make a financial transaction. According to financial website NerdWallet, fiat money (such as the U.S. dollars in a bank account) is backed and regulated by the government that issues it.

Bitcoin, however, is powered through technology and software. The currency is backed by code instead of something like gold or silver.

Each bitcoin is stored in a digital wallet on a computer or smartphone as a computer file. It is powered by an open-source called blockchain. Basically, every transaction is a “block” that is chained to the code, which creates a permanent record of each transaction.

Long was deeply involved in legislative efforts that led to Wyoming becoming the first state in the nation to develop rules to regulate the blockchain technology.

Her work led in 2019 to legislative approval of a bill allowing the creation of “Special Purpose Depository Institutions” for the handling of cryptocurrency transactions.

Wyoming’s work has made it the only state in the nation where banks working with both digital and traditional assets can operate.

Wyoming is also soon to be home to the first two digital currency banks in the world, one of which (Avanti) is operated by Long and the other (Kraken) she is a shareholder in.

Long has also teamed up with U.S. Sen. Cynthia Lummis to work on blockchain and Bitcoin-related issues. The senator was disappointed by Trump’s comments about Bitcoin, but looked forward to chatting with him sometime about its virtues.

“Former President Trump has always said he wants to make America great again, and I absolutely agree with that sentiment. Unfortunately, America is at serious risk of falling behind China and other nations in financial innovation. Bitcoin can help ensure the US dollar remains the world reserve currency,” Lummis told Cowboy State Daily on Monday. “The Biden Administration is debasing the dollar. Financial innovation is how we ensure sound money and protect America’s place as the land of financial freedom and economic opportunity for all.”

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Wyoming to Be Home to One of the World’s Fastest Supercomputers

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

One of the fastest supercomputers in the world will be in operation in Cheyenne by next year, where it will help scientists research a wide range of weather phenomena that affect society.

The National Center for Atmospheric Research announced this week that its new supercomputer would be funded by Hewlett-Packard to the tune of $35-$40 million. Once operational, the HPE-powered system is expected to rank among the top 25 or so fastest supercomputers in the world.

The supercomputer will be installed in Cheyenne sometime this year and will be operational by early 2022. It will replace the current system, which is known as “Cheyenne.”

“This new system is a major step forward in supercomputing power, providing the scientific community with the most cutting-edge technology to better understand the Earth system,” said Anke Kamrath, director of NCAR’s Computational and Information Systems Laboratory. “The resulting research will lead to new insights into potential threats ranging from severe weather and solar storms to climate change, helping to advance the knowledge needed for improved predictions that will strengthen society’s resilience to potential disasters.”

NCAR is holding a statewide contest for Wyoming students to propose a name for the new system.

The new machine will help scientists conduct research needed to better understand a range of phenomena that affect society, from the behavior of major wildfires to eruptions caused by solar storms that can threaten GPS and other sensitive technologies.

The new computer will have the ability to perform 19.87 quadrillion calculations per second, almost 3.5 times the speed of the Cheyenne supercomputer. That is the equivalent of every man, woman, and child on the planet solving one equation every second for a month.

“More powerful supercomputing is a vital component of the research infrastructure of our nation, enabling scientists to advance fundamental research and deepen our understanding of the complex and interconnected nature of the Earth system,” NCAR Director Everette Joseph said. “This new NWSC system will support basic research in ways that will lead to more detailed and useful predictions of the world around us, thereby helping to make our society more resilient to increasingly costly disasters and contributing to improved human health and well-being.”

In 2017, IBM contracted with the NCAR-Wyoming Supercomputing Center in Cheyenne with a project to help improve weather forecasting around the globe. 

Since the NWSC opened its doors in 2012, more than 4,000 users from more than 575 universities and other institutions across the nation and overseas have used its resources. 

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Man Goes On Profanity-Laced Tirade After Crashing Wyo Ag Dept Zoom Call

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By Mark Davis, Powell Tribune

Not even an obscure Zoom meeting of the Wyoming Animal Damage Management Board could escape 2020 unscathed. 

As about 16 state and federal officials discussed the compensation offered to producers who lose livestock to wolves in certain parts of the state, their progress was briefly slowed by an outburst from an unknown person in attendance at virtual meeting last week. 

The board was carefully considering how to respond to a portion of a four-part comment on the compensation program when a man only known as “Robert” voted nay. His vote went largely unnoticed, being in the vast minority. 

But as the board considered its reply to another portion of the public comment, Robert interrupted with a largely unintelligible string of profanities and racial slurs. 

While there have been many documented cases of people crashing Zoom meetings since the start of the pandemic, it was a bit shocking to most in attendance that someone found the group charged with replying to comments on wolf depredation compensation within Wyoming’s predator zone — let alone spent time attempting to sabotage the meeting. 

It was about 14 minutes into the board’s discussion that the profanities and slurs began. 

“Oh good, that’s handy,” Doug Miyamoto, co-chair of the board and director of the Wyoming Department of Agriculture, sarcastically remarked. 

Jerry Johnson of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, who was administering the meeting, eventually was forced to remove Robert and the board continued after apologies and a couple chuckles. 

“That was a first for me,” Johnson said.

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Wyo Tech School Founder Eric Trowbridge to Speak at National Tech Summit

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Eric Trowbridge, the founder of a Cheyenne technology school aimed at introducing students to computer programming, plans to tell attendees at a national technology conference that technology can work in rural America.

Trowbridge, founder and CEO of the Array Technology and Design School, will be one of the speakers at the Silicon Slopes Tech Summit in Salt Lake City at the end of January.

The Cheyenne high school graduate said he plans to tell the more than 20,000 people expected to attend that the technology industry can find a home in rural states like Wyoming.

“The message is that technology can work in rural America,” he told Cowboy State Daily. “It’s a very different animal from doing technology in big cities. The challenge we have in running technology in rural American is … for technology to thrive, you have to have really smart people, you have to have people who understand computer science and programming and graphic design and that’s kind of hard to come by in states like Wyoming.”

But with schools like Array, residents can be trained in the skills needed to sustain a successful technology sector, Trowbridge said.

The state can help with such efforts by making sure it creates a welcoming atmosphere for people who may want to pursue a technology-based career, he said.

“The number one mission should be to try to create the most fertile soil possible so when these seeds get planted, they grow into companies, entrepreneurship,” he said. 

“The things we’re working on now (are) the cultural piece. Having young adults who are in this space, people who want to transition into technology, being able to go see shows and go to restaurants and have that experience,” he said.

The state has made major advances toward welcoming the technology field in recent years, Trowbridge said, through steps such as mandating computer science education for all public school students.

Trowbridge said Wyoming has a history of being the first state in the nation to take bold steps, such as giving women the right to vote, electing a woman as governor and having the first national park and monument.

“It’s not about changing Wyoming, it’s about tapping into our roots,” he said. “It’s in our nature to be pioneers and drivers and cowboys and cowgirls.”

Trowbridge credited much of the state’s progress go former Gov. Matt Mead, who he said recognized the need to make technology the “fourth leg” of the state’s economic base, joining energy, agriculture and tourism.

The resulting boost helped move the state from its reliance on historic industries, he said.

“I think we got too comfortable, we didn’t innovate,” he said. “We just thought things were going to be the way that they were.”

The opportunities for economic diversification offered by the technology industry will help the state overcome the problems it has faced because of its reliance on the energy industry, Trowbridge said.

“At the end of the day, as scary as it is, we have to get off of it because a lot of people get hurt when we go into that bust cycle,” he said. “People lose their jobs and they leave Wyoming.”

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