Freezenet’s Official Podcast: April 2020: All the News That’s Fit for Deletion

In the 18th episode of the Freezenet official podcast, “All the News That’s Fit for Deletion”, we take a look at the news and reviews we covered for April.

Welcome to the public version of the 18th episode of the Freezenet official podcast for April, 2020. This month’s episode is entitled “All the News That’s Fit for Deletion” because of the push for a Link Tax in several countries.

In addition to this, we cover what Drew Curtis called a “dire” situation on his website, Fark.com. Also, we cover the apparent closure of Slyck.com.

We also cover all the usual music and video game reviews as well as the rather strange message of “Boston Strog”. All this and more on this month’s episode of the Freezenet official podcast!

You can check out our official podcast on Soundcloud or Anchor. Alternatively, you can take a listen below:

What follows is a transcript of this month’s episode:

Intro

All the news that’s fit for deletion

Hi, I’m your host, Drew Wilson. Welcome to the 18th episode of the Freezenet official podcast for April, 2020. Here are your top 3 headlines:

The Top 3

Link Tax Spreads Into Canada and Australia After a French Regulator Ruling

Fark.com Warns of “Dire” Situation Following Ad Revenue Drop Due to COVID-19

… and Slyck.com Disappears, Leaving Freezenet To Become the Sole Surviving Slyck/ZeroPaid Element

Top Stories

It’s been an eventful month this month and we begin with the spread of the near universally condemned link tax law. Last year, we brought you news that French publishers blasted Google’s move to delete snippets from its Google News service. They called the legal move “unacceptable”. The move came after the link tax was made law in France, compelling aggregators to pay a tax for the privilege of posting snippets.

The deadlock between French publishers and the search engine meant that the conflict went to French regulators. In response, the regulators ruled that Google must use snippets when displaying news search results. In addition, they ruled that Google must retroactively pay the link tax. On top of that, the regulator said that Google must negotiate in good faith with publishers for a price they must pay. Many speculate that this latest development could compel Google to pull out of the country altogether. Such a move would devastate the publishing sector similarly to how it devastated Spanish publishers when they got a link tax.

While this decision does seem like a world away, it seems that it didn’t evade notice from Canadian publishers. Reporters from the Toronto Star reportedly asked Canadian regulators if they are seeing these developments. Additionally, they asked regulators if similar rules could be put in place in Canada. For now, regulators replied by saying that, yes, they are monitoring the situation in France. The Canadian regulators also said that they don’t see a reason to institute similar rules in Canada at this time. Still, it shows that some Canadian publishers are hoping for a similar unnecessary law in Canada.

Canada isn’t the only country whose publishing industry is eyeing the situation. Australian regulators are also pushing for similar laws in their country. Regulators are attempting to force Google and Facebook to pay a tax for the privilege of allowing links to news organizations as well. While this new code wasn’t due until November, COVID-19 saw publishers ad revenue dropping significantly. So, things have moved up in the schedule. How COVID-19 is Google or Facebooks fault is uncertain.

Meanwhile, satirical social news website, Fark.com is warning of a grim future for the site. Earlier in the month, Fark founder, Drew Curtis, was informed by people working in the online ad revenue industry that things are taking a massive dive due to COVID-19. The information suggested that contracts were being cancelled and that businesses were not waiting for things to recover. In response, Curtis asked his readers to consider subscribing to make up for the losses. The potential ad revenue drop represents what Curtis called an “existential threat” to the site. In response, he also suggested that he may start doing a trial run of ad block blockers as well.

Later on, Curtis posted a follow-up thanking his readers for subscribing. Apparently, readers did answer the call. Unfortunately, he said that the ad revenue situation for Fark is even worse than the projection. Curtis called the situation “dire” and said that he would proceed with a test of ad-block blocking on the site. Curtis said that he did apply for COVID-19 disaster relief, but was unsure if his site would qualify.

While the situation sounds grim for Fark.com, another site did fail to make it through this disaster. Slyck.com, for the last year or two, wound up being the only surviving file-sharing news sites outside of Freezenet after ZeroPaid shut down. During a spot check earlier this month, Freezenet learned that the website was down. We attempted to contact administration about the downtime, but never heard back. After doing some research, we found out that the downtime could have been happening for the better part of a month and we only just found out.

After more than a week of the site being down, we ended up calling the site being finished. While it was a big site back in the mid-2000’s, it’s popularity, along with its staff, dwindled down to nothing. After the editor and chief, Thomas Mennecke, left in 2017, the site largely became dead with almost no activity. It seems that 2020 was the year that administration finally put the site out of its misery. This leaves Freezenet being the sole surviving file-sharing news site in existence now.

There’s a whole lot of other big stories to get to this month.

Other Stories Making News

So we start with one of the most unavoidable digital rights stories around: the sale of the .org top level domain. Currently, websites that operate with a .org at the end of their URL register through a non-profit organization known as the Internet Society. This makes sense given how many non-profit organizations register under a .org domain. Many non-profits raised the alarm earlier when news surfaced that .org could be sold. The Internet Society said that they intend on selling control of the .org top level domain to private company, Ethos Capital for $1.135 billion. ICANN announced that a decision on the sale would be made on April 20th. After what many describe as a “scathing” letter from the California Attorney General to ICANN, ICANN responded by delaying the decision to May 4th.

The US Supreme Court made an interesting copyright ruling. Curiously, it all revolved around famous pirate, Blackbeard. Videographer, Frederick Allen, took pictures of the pirates ship, Queen Anne’s Revenge, during a recovery effort. The government for the state of North Carolina, took some of those pictures and posted them on their official website. Allen then sued the state for copyright infringement because the state didn’t obtain permission to post those photographs. The case made it all the way to the US Supreme Court which ruled that the states cannot be sued for copyright infringement. The surprising ruling caused many observers to ask if governments are immune from copyright infringement lawsuits. Pending further legislative clarification or other court rulings, the surprising answer for now is that, yes, governments in the US are immune to copyright infringement lawsuits.

As the COVID-19 pandemic spread around the world, different organizations are responding in different ways to help those in need. The Internet Archive is one such organization. They operate a book loaning system. With educational institutes shutting down due to COVID-19, many found themselves losing the ability to learn new things. So, in response, the Internet Archive extended its library to include books that were pending approval and allowed users to borrow books to help supplement their education.

While it is a noble cause, it seems that the charitable effort received scorn. The Copyright Alliance slammed the initiative, saying that this effort is “vile”. They said that the initiative will prevent authors from profiting from their work. Many point out that this is an unusual time that requires unusual initiatives. As a result, the big publisher organizations didn’t receive much sympathy for their attacks on this public education initiative.

In a related story, artists are in court in an effort to reclaim rights to their music. As works get closer to reaching the end of copyright terms with labels, many are attempting to use the termination clause in the US copyright laws to get out of unfavourable contracts. Major record labels shot back by saying that it is too late to try and get out of the contract and that they are now stuck with them. A judge disagreed with the major record labels and is partially allowing the lawsuit to move forward anyway. Observers call the development a major victory for artists and say that this could allow for additional leverage when negotiating favourable contracts with labels. Major record labels, meanwhile, will no doubt continue to fight against this because they don’t want to lose any part of the absolute stranglehold on the creative process they possess.

COVID-19 ad revenue drops is having an impact on websites all over. Part of the problem that affected Fark is that advertisers are blacklisting COVID-19 as a keyword they will advertise on. Given how much COVID-19 is such a big part of the fabric of public discourse these days, this has a major impact on publishers. Advertisers generally see COVID-19 as a “not brand safe” keyword and don’t want their products to be associated with such content. In response, major publishers sent an open letter to advertisers to try and fight this trend. While they could have encouraged advertisers to not follow through with the COVID-19 blacklist, they chose a different tactic. They called on advertisers to whitelist their websites when they publish COVID-19 articles.

Many blasted the move because this puts a further squeeze on smaller independent publishers posting similar coverage. This is because such a move would tilt the advertising dollar scale into the big publishers favour even more than how they are now.

Facial recognition technology and ClearView AI coverage did die down a bit in North America this month. However, it is now heating up in Australia. This is because the company is trying to sell their facial recognition software to law enforcement and government in that country. As part of the sales pitch, ClearView AI suggested that such technology was already employed in other countries like Canada and the US. So, Australia now has the opportunity to catch up to other jurisdictions.

Of course, as we pointed out based on our coverage, the Canadian trial was quickly suspended when it was brought to light. It sparked investigations from multiple privacy commissioners – one of whom called for an immediate halt to the trial. Additionally, lawsuits have been filed and petitions have been tabled in the US to halt use of ClearView AI in their country. Also, European lawmakers put a very early stop to the technology entering the continent by saying that such technology would violate the GDPR. This is because you cannot obtain proper consent with such technology, therefore, such technology is illegal in Europe. We can only conclude that claims that other jurisdictions are already using the technology is very misleading.

American public political broadcaster, C-SPAN made the news this month. The broadcaster posted the April 2nd White House Coronavirus News Conference. That means that the footage they posted, according to some, is public domain. That apparently didn’t matter because NBC Universal issued a DMCA takedown notice against the public broadcaster on copyright grounds. This ended up being just the latest example of copyright fraud. Speculation is that this case may have been little more than a false positive triggered by copyright bots.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation is expressing frustration following a Twitter privacy policy change. This month, Twitter sent a notice to users saying that they will be making changes to ensure that Twitter remains a free service. What those changes are wasn’t very well detailed in the notice – if at all. The EFF investigated and found out that the option to opt out of online tracking was removed. Now, tracking is on by default and users cannot opt out.

There are users who were unaffected by this change, however. Those users are European. This is because Europeans are under the GDPR laws. This law requires companies to obtain consent from users before tracking their activities. This stark contrast between users compelled the EFF to call for tougher privacy laws in the US to better protect Americans.

This month also saw a rare op-ed from me. In it, I asked “Where would we be without the Internet?” This follows my observations of how the media is generally treating the Internet as a whole. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the media frequently portrayed the Internet as this terrible place packed with scams, fake news, and all things bad. Now that COVID-19 has happened, I noticed that the media has had a bit of an about face. Now, they are seeing the practical benefits to the Internet. You can communicate, game, learn, shop, hold religious ceremonies, and even work online. With stay at home orders all over the world, this has substantially helped people cope with those orders. Of course, these services have always been a thing online, but the media is now finally noticing them. As a result, the Internet has been put in sharp focus in a positive light. While it’s doubtful that this good will will last by the time the pandemic is over, I did point out that this constant war on the Internet ceasing will be nice while it lasts.

Security incidences, as usual, graced the pages of Freezenet as well. The first is Advantage and Argus where the MCA Wizard App suffered from a data leak. In all, 245GB of data was exposed.

Next up is Chinese social media giant, Weibo. That company suffered from a data breach. In all, 538 million users have had their information compromised. The breach caused members of the Chinese government to ask questions about the incident.

In an update we brought you last month, a lawyer suggests that Virgin Media could face up to £4.5 billion in penalties. This after Virgin Media suffered from a data leak which famously saw peoples details exposed including their porn browsing habits.

After that, the country of Georgia suffered from a data breach. Where the information came from remains unclear. What we do know is that the entire population of the whole country, as well as many of the deceased, had their information compromised as a result.

Marriott Hotels is once again in the news. For a third time, the company suffered from a security incident. This time, the company suffered from a data breach. As a result, 5.2 million guests having their information compromised. The revelations have since sparked a lawsuit in the US.

After that, the San Francisco International Airport became another victim of a data breach. As a result, two of its websites have been compromised.

From there, alternative Android App store, Aptoide, suffered from a data breach. In all, up to 39 million accounts have been compromised. A 20 million account batch was already posted onto a hacker forum and is now up for sale on the dark web.

Finally, the Small Business Administration suffered from a data leak. In all, approximately 8,000 businesses applying for disaster relief loans related to COVID-19 had their information compromised. SBA said that the affected portions of the site have since been fixed and that the portal is now open to new applications in a secure environment. They also said that those affected have been notified and were offered 1 year of free credit monitoring.

With all this heavy stuff happening, let’s turn to the lighter side of the podcast: entertainment.

Video Game Reviews

Before we get into this months reviews, we wanted to point out that we have posted another first impression video. This time, we posted the first impression video of the game Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit. This is the 2010 version of the game. You can check out the link in our transcript or check out our website for the full video.

Now, here are the video games we’ve reviewed this month:

First up is Millipede for the Atari 2600. Bad graphics and awful colour contrasts do get in the way of gameplay. So, this game gets a 52%.

From there, we played Missile Command for the Atari 2600. Great difficulty curve and easy to understand scoring system means this game gets an 84%.

After that, we played Super Mario Advance 2 for the Game Boy Advance. While the graphics and cutscenes aren’t quite as impressive, this still is a very solid effort. The inclusion of the original Mario Brothers game is also a nice bonus. So, this game also gets a great 84%.

Finally, we played Indy 500 for the Atari 2600. While the cars do move a bit too quickly at times, and the game has little resemblance to the actual Indy 500, the arena’s are interesting to play in. So, this game gets a 70%.

Music Reviews

As for music we’ve listened to this month, we’ve got…

Gloria Estefan – Coming Out of the Dark

The KLF – 3 a.m. Eternal (Live at the S.S.L.) (edit)

Wilson Phillips – You’re In Love

Amy Grant – Baby Baby

Roxette – Joyride

Extreme – More Than Words

EMF – Unbelievable

… and Bryan Adams – (Everything I Do) I Do It for You

Picks of the Month

So, that leads us to our pick of the month. This month, our pick of the month belongs to Super Mario Advance 2 for the Game Boy Advance. Also, be sure to check out Missile Command for the Atari 2600 and The KLF – 3 a.m. Eternal (Live at the S.S.L.) (edit).

Oddities

And in other news…

Life can get quite busy for some people. Sometimes, it leads to certain things getting neglected. In Louisiana, police pulled over someone for having an expired license plate. When the officer asked about the plate, the man apologized and said he’d been busy. The part that caused everyone to do a double-take? The license plate in question was expired in 1997. Yes, a plate that expired 23 years ago. How did he not get pulled over before now anyway?

On the leadup to Easter, a man in Ohio apparently brandished a gun at a person playing the Easter Bunny. After reports were filed, police tracked the man down. Evidently, the man slurred his words and smelled of alcohol. He was, of course, arrested and faces charges. I guess delivery of the chocolate Easter eggs were delayed this year.

Due to COVID-19, the Boston Marathon was cancelled. For one woman, she decided to take things into her own hands and pay tribute to her city. So, she got a GPS tracking app and activated it so that she could track her movements in real time. The app dutifully tracked her on the various streets as she ran her own marathon. When she was done, she pulled out her app to admire her handiwork… only to say in response, “I’m an idiot.” Apparently, the plan was to use the rout to spell out “Boston Strong”. Problem is that she missed the “N” in “strong”, so she spelled out, “Boston Strog” instead. To be fair, it’s the thought that counts. Plus, she was able to make a rather obscure Quake reference in the process!

Outro

Before we close out this month’s episode, we’ve got a couple of announcements to make. First of all, we wanted to point out that we’ve been working really hard this month on the Wiki. Early on, we announced the April Wiki Content patch to point out significant progress was made to archive our first radio show.

Part way through the month, we actually did it. We completed archiving information for the radio show Trance Around the World. All the information we could obtain has been fully posted on our site. As a result, the 450 episode archive represents what may be the most complete resource of the show on the web. This is a huge accomplishment for us and we hope you enjoy what we found for this particular show. Of course, we are not done by any means. After completing this show, we went straight into the beginning process of archiving the second show. The second show in question is called Degenerate Radio. While technically shorter, it is also much newer. As we go along, we’ll be posting discography information for Sean Tyas as well as the three record labels he’s formed. We hope you enjoy what we find as it will further expand the knowledge we are able to share with you.

As if that weren’t enough, we got a third announcement to make this month. This month, we were also able to produce the Freezenet 3.2 site design patch. This patch features loads of new goodies. This includes a revamped and updated social media button collection, brand new buttons for navigating the reviews sections, an adjustment to the top navigation bar so you can get a clean news only feed, the addition of a web forum for discussing the Wiki, share buttons to help you share articles on various social media platforms, the addition of a jobs page, the fixing of the bug that kept publishing links to Google+ for reviews, and even a tweak to search results so the results also include a publication date. For us, this represents a vast overall improvement to the site. We hope you enjoy this improved design.

Also, huge shoutout to Nolan for providing mixing services!

If you’d like to get your hands on some behind the scenes stuff, exclusive content, and early access material, you can check out our Patreon page at Patreon.com/freezenet. Through this, you can help make Freezenet just that much better all the while getting some pretty cool stuff in the process. That’s Patreon.com/freezenet!

…and that’s this months episode for April 2020, I’m Drew Wilson for Freezenet. Be sure to check out our website at freezenet.ca for all the latest in news and reviews. You can also like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @freezenetca. Thank you for listening and see you next month.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.



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