In the 34th episode of the Freezenet official podcast, “Censor Wars: Episode 2: Attack of the Liberals”, we take a look at the news and reviews we covered in August 2021.
Welcome to the Public version of the Freezenet official podcast for August 2021.
This month’s episode is entitled “Censor Wars: Episode 2: Attack of the Liberals” after the Liberals unveiling of their Online Harms paper. We also cover the story of Bill C-10 dying on the order-paper due to an election. Also, we cover the Canadian election by analyzing a number of political party platforms.
We also cover the fines hitting Google and Amazon in Europe as well as all the usual music and video game reviews. We even cover the story about swearing parrots. All this and more on this month’s podcast.
You can check out our official podcast on Anchor. Alternatively, you can take a listen below:
Update: This episode is now publicly available on Patreon.
What follows is a transcript of this month’s episode.
Censor Wars: Episode 2: Attack of the Liberals
Hi, I’m your host, Drew Wilson. Welcome to episode 34 of the Freezenet official podcast for August, 2021. Here are your top 3 headlines:
The Top 3
Online Harms paper signals Liberals next prong on their war on the Internet
Election call takes Bill C-10 off life support, but party destined to re-introduce it after election
… and Freezenet offers full election coverage through the lens of digital rights.
As Bill C-10 was seemingly destined to die on the order-paper, the Liberal party has effectively unveiled their next prong on their war on the Internet. It’s well known that the Liberals were pushing their online harms proposal for some time. Details, however, remained sketchy at best. This month, the Liberals unveiled a more detailed plan with their online harms proposal. What was unveiled is generally seen as a horror show of Charter violations.
The paper purports to be part of a “consultation”, but observers and experts alike agree that this is a consultation by notice. In short, the Liberals gave a detailed plan of what the legislation is going to be. They opened things up for comments by offering an e-mail address where people can send in their concerns. It’s widely expected that those concerns will get completely ignored given the precedence set in the Bill C-10 debate.
As for what the paper itself says, it’s quite ugly for anyone who is trying to innovate online. One of the biggest sources of concern is the section about a 24 hour window to remove content deemed “harmful”. It’s described as a hair-trigger response time that actively encourages platforms and sites to simply take down content without actual review.
To make matters worse, anyone can complain and flag content, triggering these 24 hour removal requirements. This obviously invites abuse from malicious third parties as well.
What constitutes as harmful can mean, over the long term, anything. Initially, it’s about terrorism content and non-consensual content which are two of the five kinds of content mentioned. However, a provision in this paper means that what is considered harmful can be expanded at any time at the discretion of the commission.
What drew additional concern from us is the requirement to track the volume and type of harmful content on your site. That information is then required to be sent over to this new commission in a timely manner on a regular basis. Obviously, as anyone with any degree of moderation knowledge knows, this is literally an impossible ask. This is because you are being asked to quantify something that is subjective. Size of an operation really doesn’t matter here.
What’s more is that site owners are also required to secretly report offences to the RCMP. This leaves the door open for people to get a criminal record without even knowing it.
The kicker in all of this is that failure to comply with these regulations means you can be subject to a fine of $10 million or 3% of annual turnover, whichever is greater. For websites operating outside of the country, there is the additional tool of requiring ISPs to block the whole site.
So, an absolute nightmare from a web administration perspective. For almost every small website operation, this really does spell the end of their website. Either the operation shuts down in response to this new law or the operation continues and gets saddled with crippling debt at some point. Those really are the only two options at that stage.
Obviously, I did respond to this consultation knowing full well that my response will get ignored. It’s more to deny officials from making the talking point that no one disagreed with their plans for the Internet more than anything else. I basically responded by saying how this is a terrible idea and that it would permanently kneecap online innovation. This at a time when the case for the Internet has never been greater thanks to COVID-19. In short, I said that this whole proposal should be permanently shelved for the reasons of speech and entrepreneurship concerns among other things. I uploaded a PDF of my full response as well to showcase the evidence that I did disagree with this proposal. We also encouraged others to speak out against this paper.
In the days since, we noticed people becoming confused with this process. Some think that this is a bill being proposed. Others think it’s a bill advancing through the parliamentary process. So, we clarified that this is actually just at the beginning stages and not even made into a bill as of yet. After all, the House and the Senate are on a Summer break at this point. What the Liberals seem to be doing is getting the legwork done so when parliament resumes, they can push this through as quickly as possible.
As word spread about this idea, reactions began pouring in. Almost all of it was a negative response to this proposal. Joanna Baron, executive director of the Canadian Constitution Foundation called it a solution looking for a problem. Two lawyers commented that this proposal is going to be problematic with the Canadian Charter.
Daphne Keller, a Platform Regulation Director for the Stanford Cyber Policy Center, issued a long tweet thread saying how something terrible is happening in Canada. She went on to say that she is against this legislation.
The reaction quickly went international with Leigh Beadon, a Techdirt writer. Beadon commented that this proposal is part of the war on the Internet. Beadon added, “It’s hard to imagine a more appalling, arrogant move by this current government, even after its long history of trying to clamp down on the internet with powerful new regulations”.
Dan Albas commented, “A reminder that it’s already against the law to post unlawful content like child pornography or terrorist recruitment/financing. What is being proposed by the Trudeau Government & its scope are significant, placing Canada alongside a number of authoritarian & illiberal countries”.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation also condemned the proposal. They said, “This law is dangerous to internet speech, privacy, security, and competition. We hope our friends in the Great White North agree, and raise their voices to send it to the scrap heap of bad internet ideas from around the globe.”
Digital rights advocate, Cory Doctorow, also joined in on this international condemnation by saying, in part, “It’s a worst-in-class mutation of a dangerous idea that’s swept the globe, in which governments demand that hamfisted tech giants remove broad categories of speech — too swiftly for meaningful analysis.”
As international condemnation became increasingly focused on Canada, the election was called. We reported on the early rumblings that an election was forthcoming. We also learned that this was going to be a short election cycle, spanning all of one month in all.
Days later, those rumblings were confirmed. The writ was dropped on the 15th, signalling that Canada was going into an election officially. Obviously, Canada was practically in an election thanks to cross country campaigning by the various parties. This has been happening for months now. So, the idea that Canada was going into an election was probably one of the worst kept secrets all the way up to now. As we noted, the practical benefit is that Bill C-10 was basically taken off of life support as it died on the order-paper. Of course, we know that the Liberals have every intention of re-tabling the legislation should they continue to be the governing party. We point out that it’s widely expected that they’ll, at least, hold on to their minority government.
Of course, with the election call, this triggers what we’ve been quickly getting a reputation for: offering the worlds best coverage of the election through the lens of digital rights. In 2019, our angle of coverage was pretty much unmatched to the few other sources that covered this area of the election. This year, we are hoping to make it two elections in a row that we accomplish this.
So, with the Conservative party releasing its platform early in the election, we decided to perform our analysis of it. The platform was so large in terms of text, we wound up having to split it over the course of two posts. In the first part, we noted that the Conservatives are seemingly for the link tax, more broadly implementing various trade agreements like the CPTPP and TiSA that cracks down on digital rights, supporting right to repair legislation (but only for farmers), narrowing the scope for the Liberals online harms proposal, monitoring disinformation campaigns, and increasing the involvement of the Canadian Armed Forces on the cyber-security front.
Meanwhile, on the second part of our analysis, we noted, among other things, the support for increasing access to broadband in rural and indigenous communities, scrapping Bill C-10, supporting privacy reform, and continuing the call to tax large tech giants an additional 3%.
Shortly after, we learned that the NDP released their platform before the election was called. We didn’t see any coverage of this fact and had no idea that this happened until after our analysis of the Conservative platform. Still, we made up for it by providing and equal analytical treatment.
Before our analysis, we noted their support for Bill C-10 which includes opposition to freedom of speech online. So, that is the cloud that hangs over all of this.
With that, we then dove into the platform. We found that they support more affordable Internet and cell phone rates, support for right to repair legislation across the board, expanding broadband access to rural and indigenous communities (and they said this 5 times in their platform), increasing taxes on web giants, protecting privacy rights in international trade agreements, reforming privacy laws, combating disinformation online, and waiving the patent protection on COVID-19 vaccines. Those are a number of the commitments we found in the platform itself.
From there, we covered the absence of the Pirate Party of Canada. While they had gained considerable momentum in the past, that momentum has since seemingly vanished. We noted that they were largely absent during the last Canadian election in 2019. Now, we are noticing that, with their lack of activity and minimalistic presence online, they’ll likely miss this election as well. It’s depressing given their incredible track record on supporting digital rights in previous elections.
To our surprise, we found out that digital rights organization, OpenMedia, released their own platform. Obviously, they aren’t running as a political party. Instead, the idea is that other parties would take their ideas and run with them. They say they are calling for an InternetSOS because Canada’s digital policy is adrift in dangerously lobbyist infested waters. So far, they offer the best platform from what we’ve seen up to this point. Among the proposals are the increased affordability for Internet and cell phone bills, increased access to broadband in rural and indigenous communities, reject site blocking and censorship, breaking up the ISP and carrier monopolies, rejecting the link tax, support for digital creators, protecting expression online, mandating transparency reports for online platforms, privacy reform that closes loopholes for large corporations, curtailing mass surveillance and biometric surveillance, and the ability for governments to levy significant fines to companies that violate users privacy rights and personal information.
We were actually actively contemplating publishing our own platform. This to showcase that a platform can support digital rights in a real, meaningful way. OpenMedia pretty much did the legwork for us, so we’re just directing attention to their ideas instead. Thanks OpenMedia for saving me a boatload of work! I’ll just sit here and say, “What they said.”
So, a surprisingly Canadian lineup for news stories this month. Yes, there was plenty of other stuff happening around the world. So, here are some the other stories making news this month.
Other Stories Making News
Google was fined €500 Million this month in France. Google had been negotiating with French publishers on a deal that would see the tech giant pay publishers money for the privilege of being linked to. Google said that they were “very disappointed” with the fine and that the fine doesn’t reflect their ongoing efforts to establish a payment method for publishers.
Democrats have tabled the Health Misinformation Act. Tabled by Democratic Senators Amy Klobuchar and Ray Luján, the bill aims to remove Section 230 protections for websites that host misinformation about vaccines and health guidelines. It’s noted as another push by lawmakers to chip away at Section 230.
Last year, tech opinion site, TechDirt, pulled Adsense from their website after receiving large volumes of warnings seemingly at random. They called on readers to help support the site while they search for a replacement ad network. As it turns out, the quest to get a replacement ad network has proven to be particularly difficult. This is thanks to how many ad networks actually rely on Google Adsense. This month, they admitted that they have been unable to find a full replacement, but are continuing to look for ways to replace Adsense on the revenue front.
French President, Emmanuel Macron, is calling for an investigation into NSO Group. This after his phone number cropped up in a list of potential targets for the organizations Pegasus malware. The call comes as NSO Group’s parent company, Novalpina Capital, went into liquidation. Some suggest that the situation for NSO Group has become increasingly precarious as a result.
Last month, we reported on NSO Groups rather contradictory response to the stories floating around about the list of potential Pegasus targets. This month, Will Cathcart, Chief Executive of WhatsApp, disputed some of the claims made by NSO Group. He says that the numbers found in the data leak do, in fact, match up to what they have found on their end. While they couldn’t go into specific details, they effectively validated the claims made against NSO Group.
Online retail giant Amazon was fined €746 million this month. The fine is the result of alleged GDPR violations in Europe. The fine was handed down by the Luxembourg National Commission (or CNPD). According to an SEC filing, Amazon said that they believe the fine was made without merit and that they intend on defending themselves vigorously in response.
Controversy has also hit Apple this month. The company announced plans to scan all files uploaded to the iCloud in an effort to combat child abuse. The company said that messages sent on iMessage will also be subject to scanning for said content. Digital rights organizations rang the alarm bells because this would create a back door to people’s personal information. The worry is that government will start compelling Apple to also search for information on political opponents as well. The move is seen as a reversal of earlier commitments to keep information private.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation suffered a setback in the Jewel vs. NSA case. The Ninth Circuit court affirmed the lower courts decision to dismiss the case. The case is a central piece in the legal battle to put a stop to drag-net surveillance in the US. It was sparked in 2006 when Mark Klein blew the whistle on AT&T, uncovering the existence of room 641A. The room is said to contain the main cable for all Internet traffic flowing through the AT&T network. A splitter was installed and a copy of that data was being made. That copy of that data was then sent directly to the NSA for analysis. The EFF says that, to date, no court has weighed in on the merits of dragnet surveillance. They are now assessing their options.
Finally, T-Mobile suffered from a major data breach. In all, 47 million current and former customers have had their information exposed. This is the second data breach we were able to report on from that company. In 2019, the same company suffered from a separate breach that saw 1 million customers exposed.
Video Game Reviews
So, definitely a lot happening in the news to say the least. Now, let’s turn to entertainment.
Before we get into the video game reviews, I wanted to point out the first impression video’s we’ve posted this month.
For this months Steam game, we played Far Cry 2. This is a continuation of the series we started earlier with the first impression video of the game, Far Cry. You can check out the video directly on our site or via YouTube.
As always, you can subscribe to our YouTube channel and turn on notifications to get realtime updates on what video’s we’ve posted.
Now, here are video games we’ve reviewed this month:
The first game we played is Wario Land 3 for the Game Boy Color. A game with great variety and length made even better with it’s non-linear nature. So a game that gets a great 86%.
From there, we tried Midway Presents Arcade Hits: Moon Patrol / Spy Hunter for the Game Boy Color. A decent game all around, though the difficulty curve might be a bit offputting to some players. So, a game that gets a solid 70%.
After that, we tried Ms. Pac Man – Special Color Edition for the Game Boy Color. A dated game that came off as flawed. So, that game got a mediocre 62%.
Finally, we played Pitfall: Beyond the Jungle for the Game Boy Color. Sluggish controls requiring pixel perfect execution doesn’t do this game any favours. As a result, the game winds up being frustrating and difficult. So, this one gets a barely passable 52%.
As for music we’ve listened to this month, we’ve got…
… and finally, Sensoriel Positive Emotion – Mudra
Picks of the Month
The Lincolnshire Wildlife Centre, a wildlife sanctuary in the UK, was forced to take certain measures. This after 5 of their parrots apparently taught themselves to swear. Apparently, the parrots were heard swearing at various guests who were visiting. The guests reportedly found the situation rather amusing, though the zoo keepers were certainly not laughing. Reports say that the keepers have separated the parrots in response. No complaints about the incidents were ever filed. I’ll admit, the more I visualize it, the funnier that gets.
Some people have an urge to eat a Dairy Queen ice cream cake from time to time. That’s completely fine. The problem, however, is how one person opted to purchase the dessert. In Saskatchewan, a customer opted to fly in by helicopter, landing in the nearby parking lot. Reportedly, the chopper blew up dust and debris in the process. Someone hopped out of the helicopter, went inside, and bought the ice cream cake. After that, the customer had apparently left with the cake. RCMP had received complaints about the incident and are looking into it. On the one hand, it’s hard to come up with very many ways as awsome as using a helicopter to buy an ice cream cake. On the other hand, I’m not so sure it’s worth risking the loss of your license in the process.
Science has a way of having some rather interesting moments. Apparently, in 2012, a study was published about dishonesty. The idea is that getting people to sign on a line before the details might compel them to be more honest. More recently, however, some researchers reviewed the findings. As you can tell by where this is headed, apparently, the information published in the study about dishonesty was allegedly a bit dishonest. The researchers said that the data provided in the study underwent various forms of fabrication. Both forms involved a random number generator to spit out data. Yeah, that’s pretty ironic.
Before we close out this month’s podcast, we got one announcement to make. This month, we released the July Wiki content patch. This month, we managed to make some pretty good progress on episode 350 of the Future Sound of Egypt. While this is, indeed, just one episode we are still working on, the amount of work required to complete this episode is greater than the work needed to complete episodes 301 to 349 combined. So, yes, we did make headway and are chipping away at this increasingly annoyingly large episode. We also updated the archives for the V Recordings Podcast, Resonation, Fables, and the latest episodes for the Future Sound of Egypt. The update hit before a new episode could be published for the Random Movement Podcast, so nothing was updated for that particular show this month.
Also, huge shout out to Nolan for providing mixing services!
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…and that’s this months episode for August, 2021. 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 follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr. Thank you for listening and see you next month.