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YouTube Banning Anti-Vax Misinformation; Wyoming Media Attorney Says It’s Perfectly Legal

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Although many are incensed about YouTube deciding to ban and remove anti-vaccination content from its platform, a Wyoming media attorney said this is a perfectly legal move on their part.

Despite former state Rep. Scott Clem’s declaration on Wednesday that YouTube’s move to ban all anti-vaccination information was “the end of free speech,” Cheyenne attorney Bruce Moats said this is not the case.

“The adoption of the 14th Amendment after the Civil War guaranteed individuals free speech, and the other protections in the First Amendment, against infringements by state and local governments,” Moats told Cowboy State Daily on Thursday. “Nothing in either amendments makes it apply to private individuals or businesses.”

Since YouTube is owned by Google, which is a private, albeit massive, company, its officials are allowed to “censor” any content they see fit.

Clem did not return Cowboy State Daily’s request for comment on Thursday.

Moats noted that as a private business, YouTube is free to decide what it allows over its communication platforms.

“A business can restrict what an employee says in person, on its email or on its website, and can take disciplinary action against an employee for violating its content rules,” Moats said. “In a state, like Wyoming, where employment can be terminated for any reason that is not an illegal reason, an employer can terminate an employee simply because the employer does not like what the employee said. 

“A newspaper, television station or internet company has the freedom to control its content,” he continued. “A newspaper that refuses to print a false accusation against a person is not violating anyone’s free speech rights.”

Although he did not respond to a request for comment from Cowboy State Daily, Clem commented on the outlet’s social media page to explain his opinion that large outlets such as YouTube be regulated as a utility.

“For many years now lawmakers and courts have looked at this issue with intrigue, with many lawmakers proposing that some social media platforms, because of their size and influence, be treated as a utility, thereby affording certain protections to minority groups, including freedom to give dissenting opinions and evidence to those ends,” Clem wrote.

“Censorship, on a massive scale that affects the whole nation, isn’t good for anyone. Antitrust/monopoly lawsuits and legislation have been crafted because of issues like this. To me, it’s clear that it’s needed again,” he said.

On Wednesday, YouTube announced the change to ban all anti-vaccine content, explaining its current community guidelines have been extended to cover “currently administered” vaccines that have been proven safe by the World Health Organization and other health officials, according to NPR.

The mandate went into effect immediately, with some prominent names (including Robert F. Kennedy Jr.) already seeing their accounts banned due to what YouTube said was misinformation.

YouTube previously banned content that contained false claims about the COVID vaccines, but the new policy will extend to a number of other vaccines.

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Wyoming Beaver Gets Spotlighted On Popular YouTube Hunting Series

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The beavers of Wyoming were in the spotlight this week on a popular hunting YouTube channel.

“Meat Eater,” a web series hosted by hunter and conservationist Steven Rinella, covered the Wyoming beaver and the centuries-old Mountain Man Rendezvous in Daniel, Wyoming, a town about 100 miles south of Yellowstone.

“Guys would come down out of the mountains after having little or no human contact for upwards of a year,” Rinella explained. “They would trade stretched and dried beaver pelts for things like alcohol, traps, rifles, gunpowder and lead and female company. It was a blowout party.”

Rinella said beaver trapping has always been difficult work, as it demands skill, patience and aptitude. He also pointed out that next to humans, beavers alter their environment more than any creature on earth.

Beavers are native to Yellowstone, and in 2015, there were around 100 colonies detected.

During the “Meat Eater” episode, Rinella traps and skins a beaver. He noted that at the height of the beaver trade, the reward for pelts was high enough that people were willing to risk both life and limb, literally.

“These guys out west were risking death by grizzly bears, other mountain men and Native Americans, who often resented these trappers for outright theft of their resources and livelihood,” he explained.

Rinella also discussed the explorer John Colter, who during the winter of 1807, became the first person of European descent to enter the region now known as Yellowstone National Park and to see the Teton Mountain Range. He is considered one of, if not the first, the earliest mountain men.

Rinella recounter “Colter’s run,” a story of the explorer and his partner being captured by the Blackfeet tribe.

“The Blackfeet killed his trapping partner, disemboweled [him] and took his testicles and guts and smeared them all over John Colter,” he said. “They stripped Colter naked, gave him a running head start and then they took after him to kill him.”

Colter ultimately ran five miles to evade his captors, but did so successfully, although he did kill one brave.

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