Freezenet’s Official Podcast: December 2020: The Year End Special

In the 26th episode of the Freezenet official podcast, “The Year End Special”, we take a look at the news and reviews we covered in December.

Welcome to the public version of episode 26 of the Freezenet official podcast for December, 2020. This month’s episode is entitled “The Year End Special” because it’s the last episode for 2020. As a result, we count down all the big stories of the year, the best music and games of the year, and even the largest security incidences that occurred this year.

In addition to that, we also have the regular episode. This month, we cover Trump defunding the military in an effort to kill Section 230, the Google and Facebook anti-trust lawsuits, and the botched release of Cyberpunk 2077.

In addition to that, we also cover all the usual music and video game reviews. We even cover the “Things Stuck in Our Orifices Year in Review”. All this and more on this month’s 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

It’s The Year End Special!

Hi, I’m your host, Drew Wilson. Welcome to episode 26 of the Freezenet official podcast for December, 2020. Here are your top 3 headlines:

The Top 3

Donald Trump defunds the military in bid to kill Section 230

Google and Facebook hit with multiple anti-trust lawsuits

… and potential class action lawsuit filed over disastrous Cyberpunk 2077 launch

Top Stories

In an unprecedented year, what’s another unprecedented moment? After losing the US general election, opportunities to wreck the internet are shrinking fast for Donald Trump. So, in a last ditch effort, Trump hatched a plan. He decided to try and attach the Section 230 debate to the National Defense Authorization Act (or NDAA). The NDAA is basically the military budget funding for the year and is considered “must pass” legislation. So, he threatened to veto the NDAA if provisions aren’t in there to kill Section 230.

In response, Republican’s made a rare rebuke of the president. Senate Armed Services Chair, Jim Inhofe, commented that Section 230 “has nothing to do with the military.” Inhofe further commented, “You can’t do it in this bill. That’s not a part of the bill”

As a result, lawmakers decided against putting that provision in the NDAA. Trump then threw an even bigger temper tantrum on Twitter. Trump furiously wrote, “Very sadly for our Nation, it looks like Senator @JimInhofe will not be putting the Section 230 termination clause into the Defense Bill,” Trump then added, “So bad for our National Security and Election Integrity. Last chance to ever get it done. I will VETO!”

Lawmakers effectively responded by calling Trump’s bluff and overwhelmingly passed the NDAA without Section 230 killing provisions. On the surface, this sounds like a win for digital rights. Unfortunately, it’s not so simple. Democrats, for their part, were trying to insert two pieces of legislation of their own into the NDAA.

The first is the CASE Act. The CASE Act is a failed piece of legislation that would create copyright courts for alleged copyright infringers. Backers pushed the narrative that it’s about small claims. However, digital rights advocates point out that when they say “small claims”, they really mean a $30,000 cap in a court setting outside of the American justice system.

The second piece of legislation is the felony streaming bill. In short, the legislation would increase penalties for copyright infringement on a stream from civil remedies to criminal penalties. Such legislation received near universal condemnation. Because of this, the situation actually wound up being a lose-lose situation for digital rights.

Ultimately, Democrats got their way and got both unrelated laws put into the legislation. Digital rights advocates responded to the situation by saying that they will fight both pieces of legislation moving forward. The Electronic Frontier Foundation said in their remarks, “Internet users and innovators, as well as the basic legal norms that have supported online expression for decades, are under attack. With your help, we will be continuing to fight back, as we have for thirty years, into 2021 and beyond. Fair use has a posse, and we hope you’ll join it.”

After the NDAA made it onto Trump’s desk, Trump followed through with his threat and vetoed it. As a result, Trump defunded the US military because he couldn’t get his own personal pet project shoehorned into the legislation. In his rantings, Trump said, “Unfortunately, the Act fails to include critical national security measures, includes provisions that fail to respect our veterans and our military’s history, and contradicts efforts by my administration to put America first in our national security and foreign policy actions,”

Without citing actual specifics, Trump further commented, “It is a ‘gift’ to China and Russia”

As a result of this, the legislation now falls back to Congress. Congress now needs to obtain a so-called “super majority” to override the veto and fund the military. Failure to obtain this would mean that 2020 would be the first year in history that the NDAA failed to pass.

Switching gears a bit, Google and Facebook have been hit with multiple anti-trust lawsuits. Back in October, we mentioned how the US Department of Justice filed an anti-trust lawsuit against Google. The lawsuit generally seemed quite weak and leaned on the idea that Google is the default search engine for a lot of applications out there today. This month, we are seeing a string of additional anti-trust lawsuits from officials.

The first we saw this month was the Federal Trade Commission (or FTC) filing an anti-trust lawsuit against Facebook. In the lawsuit, the FTC said that Facebook had engaged in buying up the competition in an effort to stifle said competition. They called for the breakup of Facebook and are calling for Facebook to divest WhatsApp and Instagram among other companies currently under Facebook. The lawsuit is joined by 48 state Attorneys General who are both Democrat and Republican led.

After that, Google got hit with a second anti-trust lawsuit. A coalition of state Attorneys General filed the suit against the search engine giant. The lawsuit alleges that Google manipulated search results to favour their own services over others. It was later found out that the second suit also alleges that Google conspired with Facebook to maintain their ad services domination. That lawsuit is led by both Democrat and Republican officials.

Just days later, a third anti-trust lawsuit was filed against Google. 38 states are said to be participating in that particular lawsuit. The lawsuit alleges that Google manipulated its services to leverage its other services over others. Some involved in the lawsuit are calling for the breakup of Google.

There’s been quite the commotion in the gaming community. After facing multiple delays, CD Projekt S.A. finally managed to release the hotly anticipated game, Cyberpunk 2077. Many were expecting this to easily be a contender for the game of the year in many circles. As it went on sale, many quickly bought the game to figure out if the hype was real.

That’s when things started going downhill.

Many were reporting that the game was absolutely filled with bugs. For some, the game was virtually unplayable often due to stability issues. The constant crashing caused substantial outcry. In response, both Sony and Microsoft offered refunds for the purchase of the game. Sony then took things a step further and went to the seemingly unprecedented step of delisting the game from its services on top of it all.

The backlash only continued to escalate from there. The company said that it sold 13 million copies. Unfortunately, this ultimately missed sales estimates and the companies share value plummeted by 42% at one point.

Some early reviews expressed disappointment in the game itself. Some go so far as to call the game heartless and poorly written. An NPR reporter even suggested that readers would be better served to not play it.

Internal backlash mounted against executives as well. After instituting mandatory six day work weeks to get the game out the door, executives faced heated questions as to why such a broken game was shipped in the first place. Some called the goals instituted by executives “unrealistic”.

To make matters even worse, an investor filed a lawsuit against CD Projekt S.A. and is seeking class action status. The lawsuit says that it is seeking to “recover damages for CD Projekt investors under the federal securities laws.”

The company said that it intends on fixing the bugs that made it such a broken game as quickly as possible.

So, quite the set of stories to end the year on. We aren’t done yet, though. Here are some of the other stories making news this month.

Other Stories Making News

The story that just won’t die continues to make headlines. Trumps efforts to ban TikTok seemed to continue to be forgotten by the administration. After blowing past several deadlines, the Trump administration has given TikTok yet another deadline extension. This time, the administration extended the deadline again to December 4th.

Of course, we are now well past December 4th, so, what happened? Well, like a broken record, Trump blew past that deadline too. So, some suggest that the administration is simply not going to enforce the ban. Instead, TikTok will just sit in legal limbo and be permitted to carry on. Well, that changed after TikTok won another court ruling. Another judge has now blocked the TikTok ban. The judge said that Trump officials demonstrated a “failure to adequately consider an obvious and reasonable alternative before banning TikTok”. Carl Nichols further wrote that this renders the crackdown against the app “arbitrary and capricious”. So, looks like TikTok won’t be banned for now… again.

Meanwhile, the Trump administration this month quickly proposed Nathan Simington as a replacement to one of the Republican voting members of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Simington is known as being an archetect of the assault on Section 230. The EFF objected to this nomination, saying that “There’s good reason to worry: Simington was reportedly one of the legal architects behind the president’s recent executive order seeking to have the FCC issue “clarifying” regulations for social media platforms. The executive order purports to give the FCC authority to create rules to which social media platforms must adhere in order to enjoy liability protections under Section 230, the most important law protecting our free speech online”

This isn’t the only possible nomination going on at the FCC. Current chairman, Ajit Pai, who wreaked havoc on the American Internet by killing network neutrality and pushing for the death of Section 230, said that he’ll be leaving his position once Joe Biden is sworn in. In response, Biden is reportedly eyeing a number of possible candidates. Many of them are said to be advocates for restoring network neutrality. Among the names floating around are Jessica Rosenworcel and Edward “Smitty” Smith. As a result, there is some hope that the incoming Democratic chairperson will start undoing the damage caused by Pai during the Trump administration.

Later on, US senators became successful in ramming through Simington’s nomination. The forced and rushed nomination went through over objections by Democrats. As a result, the vote at the FCC will continue to be a 2 vs 2 tie. That leaves the chairperson to cast the deciding vote.

Meanwhile, Canada is rethinking how it intends on regulating web giants. After promising to “tax the web giants”, the Canadian government carried through with that promise, though not exactly in the way some had hoped. A proposal says that the giants will need to start paying GST and HST taxes. The proposal comes from the Fall Economic Statement. The NDP points out that this is the bare minimum of what they were calling for. Proponents of the move suggest that this will help level the playing field. Of all the proposals out there, this is probably one of the least controversial moves the government could have carried through with.

Dell is on the receiving end of a proposed class action lawsuit. The lawsuit stems from a 2017 data breach that saw customer information exposed. About 7,000 customers were said to have been exposed in the breach back then. The suit, at the time of our report, wasn’t certified. The claims in the lawsuit include a man who has received harassing phone calls from people claiming to be from Dell since January 2018. He says he has received 5 to 10 scam calls every day, seven days a week at all hours. Dell said in a statement that it has made improvements to their security since the breach.

Australia is reportedly moving forward with a proposed link tax law. A link tax law is supposed to go after aggregators of content. Aggregators, utilizing various Fair Use and Fair Dealing laws, offer snippets, thumbnails, and links to content. In return, publishers get new visitors, subscribers, and ad clicks. The link tax effectively upends this mutually beneficial relationship by demanding that aggregators also pay taxes to these publishers. As we noted previously, Facebook has threatened to delete their news feed should Australia actually follow through and implement this law.

Amazon is finding that it is on the receiving end of some legal issues. French privacy watchdog, CNIL, has fined Amazon 35 million euros. The fine stems from the way the company handled tracking cookies. CNIL says that Amazon displayed a banner that basically said that users agreed to the use of the tracking cookies. CNIL said that there was no reasonable way to opt out of this. Amazon, for its part, said that its headquarters was not in France, therefore, CNIL lacked authority to hand down the fine in the first place. CNIL rejected that notion and fined Amazon anyway.

Visa and Mastercard has severed ties with online pornography website, Pornhub. The move comes after a New York Times op-ed suggesting that the website offers content that exploits underage people and carries revenge porn content. In response, Pornhub said that their content is moderated and that the site contains content that is consensual. Still, the website responded by removing third party material and that verified members were the only ones permitted to upload content. Some suggest that large portions of the sites contents have been taken offline because of a massive purge.

The EFF responded to the move by saying that they can’t really comment on the specific allegations. Still, they say that they are concerned that entities like Visa and Mastercard are trying to dictate what you can and cannot see online. The EFF comments, “Visa and Mastercard, acting together, are currently a chokepoint for online payments. This means that every arbitrary policy of these two companies can translate into rules that all websites who want to process payments must follow. Until and unless we create a diverse and robust market of online payment services not reliant on Visa and Mastercard, we have to deal with the fact that these two companies can dictate what you can read online—or, in this case, what porn you’re allowed to watch. ”

While Facebook might be seeing legal problems in the US, the US isn’t the only country that is seeing legal action. Australia’s Competition and Consumer Commission is filing a lawsuit against Facebook over privacy violations. Specifically, it turns out, Facebook operated a Virtual Private Network (or VPN). This was known as Onavo VPN. While the service has since been discontinued, the allegations suggest that the Facebook run VPN offered a promise to protect people’s personal information. Instead, according to the allegations, Facebook took that personal information and used it for commercial gain. The regulator is seeking declarations and pecuniary penalties.

Fortinet has suffered from a major data leak. A hacker has posted the credentials of 50,000 VPNs. The Fortinet software that this affects is from slightly older versions which contains the vulnerability.

Video Game Reviews

What can we say? Wow. What a way to end 2020! Just nothing but one long string of dramatic stories. I am exhausted. So, let’s move on to something a bit more relaxed and talk about entertainment.

Before we get into the video game reviews, we wanted to point out that we have posted another first impression video. This month, we posted the video for Borderlands 2. You can check this out via our website, directly on YouTube, or via our YouTube channel.

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

First up is Vegas Stakes for the Game Boy. A very successful port from the SNES version, though it is an abbreviated version of the game. This one gets a great 80%.

From there, we tried The Lion King for the Game Boy. Sluggish controls and bad collision detection hurts gameplay. As a result, this one flops with a 44%.

We then tried Aladdin for the Game Boy. Short gameplay and glitchy ropes don’t help this title. Still, what is otherwise in there is actually pretty good. So, this one gets an OK 68%.

Finally, we played Missile Command for the Game Boy Color. A game that tries to retain the old style of play to a fault. An overall lack of length does hold this game back. Older players might appreciate the game for what it is, but newer gamers might not really see what is supposed to be so good about this one when it was released. So, this one gets a mediocre 64%.

Music Reviews

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

George Michael – Too Funky

The Heights – How Do You Talk to an Angel

The Cure – Friday I’m In Love

Sum 41 – In Too Deep

Ugly Kid Joe – Everything About You

Firehouse – When I Look Into Your Eyes

Lou Reed – Whats Good (The Thesis)

… and finally, Lillian Axe – No Matter What

Picks of the Month

So, that leads us to our pick of the month. This month, our pick of the month belongs to Sum 41 – In Too Deep. Also, be sure to check out Vegas Stakes for the Game Boy.

Oddities

And in other news…

Officials are investigating after a COVID-19 positive patient beat a fellow patient to death with an oxygen tank. The incident occured at the Antelope Valley Hospital in California. The motive of the attack is unclear. Still, it has some people wondering if this counts as a COVID related death.

It’s that time of year again. Defector is carrying on their time-honoured tradition of posting their year in review. Yes, it is the things stuck in our orifices year in review. I’m going to spare you most of the details, but I will say this: do not stick paper in your ear. I actually said that as serious advice on a podcast.

… and to wrap up this section, we got one of the most 2020 Christmas stories ever. Apparently, for stocking stuffers, some people are giving each other hand sanitizer, toilet paper, and other cleaning supplies. The headline is its own punchline: “For Christmas, My True Love Gave To Me … Hand Sanitizer, Because It’s 2020

Year End Top 10 Lists

As is tradition for the end of the year, we count down multiple top 10 lists for Freezenet.

This year, we are starting with the top 10 biggest stories we’ve covered this year.

For us, the 10th biggest story is the lawsuit against the Internet Archive. The story began with the Internet Archive responding to the global pandemic by launching a book lending initiative. The program was already in place and obtained authorization of authors. The thing that changed was that more people could access material than before. The move, for the most part, was an obvious one. Physical libraries were shut down in the early days of the pandemic, so their online services was a go-to place to supplement learning. In response, the big corporate book publishers launched a lawsuit, trying to sue the humanitarian initiative out of existence for a fast buck.

The lawsuit sparked fears that so much material could be wiped out from the web. So, the Association of Research Libraries condemned the lawsuit, saying that the Internet Archive has been a force of good for over 25 years. The corporate publishers, however, didn’t budge and insisted that the humanitarian effort is “vile”. With big publishers refusing to relent, the Internet Archive issued their own legal response.

Some of the most extreme copyright maximalists wound up being inspired by the move and tried to apply the same thinking to physical libraries. One went to the extreme of saying that physical libraries should be charging for their book loaning services or simply cease to exist. That particular voice received a pile of backlash from more reasonable thinking individuals.

Unfortunately, thanks to the corporate interests efforts, the humanitarian effort was forced to cease operations earlier than expected. This saw many losing access to learning resources as a result.

Privacy issues made it onto this years list. An example of this is our 9th biggest story of the year: Clearview AI. Clearview AI made waves this year by promising to use artificial intelligence to identify people in surveillance photos and videos. The company scraped information from social media without authorization and compiled their database accordingly.

Many pointed out that this represents a very real threat to privacy, but the insistence from some proponents is that this technology is going to be used for law enforcement purposes. That argument quickly fell apart when potential clients of the rich and famous were reportedly given “trial” accounts and used it for fun at parties and while on dates. Various cities and states in the US began making moves to ban the technology. In Canada, it was found out that the RCMP were also using the technology. The RCMP quickly responded to the story saying that the trials have been discontinued in the police forces. The controversial technology then made brief appearances in Australia where the company attempted to set up shop there. Ultimately, the story faded away with so many organizations effectively blackballing the company over the many controversies it faced.

Some stories have a sort of hero vs. villain aspect to them. That is not always the case in every story. An example of this is the Apple vs. Epic story. This story makes it into our 8th position. Epic, makers of Fortnite, offered two methods for Apple players to purchase so-called “V-Bucks”. The first way is through Apple Pay (as required by the TOS). The second way is directly through Epic. Epic offered a discount for those paying in the direct way. This is basically purchasing the V-Bucks without Apple’s processing fees.

Apple reacted by banning Fortnite from their app store. Epic claimed that Apple was acting in an anti-competitive way and filed a lawsuit against the tech giant. In court, Epic admitted that they did, indeed, violate the terms of service, but they felt that they did nothing wrong.

Apple wanted to ban Epic’s Unreal Engine, but thanks to an assist from Microsoft, the judge agreed that banning the engine would cause too much collateral damage and that the real battle is between Apple and Epic. After Apple failed to ban the Unreal Engine, Apple then turned around and suspended the Epic developer account. This effectively kicked out all of Epic games from the app store.

Ultimately, neither side in this fight look particularly good in any way, but it did cause a lot of tension in the tech and gaming communities.

Moving to our 7th biggest story is, surprisingly, the Trump vs. TikTok saga. This story had all the makings to be, at least, a top 3 contender this year. It started with Trump’s failed Tulsa rally. In that rally, empty seats practically wallpapered the scene as the outflow area was effectively cancelled. The reason why there was a lack of attendance? Some people pointed to people organizing on TikTok to purchase tickets to the rally with no intention of showing up. As a result, this sparked the famous photo of a dishevelled and humiliated Trump leaving his helicopter. He was humiliated during a rally meant to further inflate his ego.

Of course, Trump wasn’t going to take this ego hit lightly and seemingly vowed to exact revenge on the entire social media platform. Shortly after, he issued an executive order attempting to ban both TikTok and WeChat. Trump set a very firm date of September 27th that TikTok must be US owned or get banned. TikTok responded by filing a lawsuit to block the ban. Employees separately sued the president.

In the weeks and months ahead, TikTok attempted to find a buyer for their US operations. Early contenders appeared to be Microsoft and Walmart among others. Then, Oracle had effectively won the bid, taking some by surprise. After presenting the deal, Trump expressed skepticism and later rejected the deal one week before the deadline.

Then, in an eleventh hour bid to deflect the ban, Walmart came (no pun intended) out of the blue and joined the Oracle Walmart deal. The Tiktok Oracle Walmart deal was then presented to Trump and Trump gave preliminary approval. A judge, meanwhile, approved of an injunction of the Tiktok ban so that the different parties could sort things out.

China, of course, expressed outrage over what was happening and changed its technology export rules in the wake of what was happening. Ultimately, they would get to have final say on the matter.

While things seemed to be heading towards an ultimate approval by everyone, the US general election happened. After a contentious political fight, Trump lost to Joe Biden. Speculation is that, ever since then, Trump simply lost interest in the TikTok deal to focus on trying to overturn the will of the American people. Radio silence set in on the Trump administration side of things. Deadlines came and went without an approval or denial. The deadline was extended again and again with one being set for November 27th. November 27 came and went without a decision and the deadline was extended again to December 4th. December 4th came and went without an answer and a judge seemingly lost his patience with the situation. Ultimately, he sided with ByteDance and issued an injunction against the ban. The story seemed to just fizzle out after that.

A particularly interesting story came out of Germany this year that really stood to reshape surveillance networks. In our 6th biggest story of the year, a German court ruled that surveillance of foreign nationals was unconstitutional. It shook the spy organizations because different countries cannot spy on their own civilians to varying degrees. So, in response, the different countries simply spy on each others citizens, then utilize information sharing networks to share their intelligence with one another. This effectively circumvents legal protections of privacy in a number of countries.

While this had been going on for years, the court ruling in Germany threatened to shake all of that up. European digital rights advocates hailed this as a major victory for digital rights.

The Black Lives Matters movement made quite an impact in the offline and online world. In our 5th biggest story of the year, we talk about the impact it has had on social media. Many have long accused social media platforms like Facebook of having a pro-conservative bias. People who spread right wing conspiracy theories and misinformation are effectively left untouched. Hate material and hate networks have been seemingly allowed to thrive on some platforms. The problem is that platforms like Facebook make quite a chunk of change from advertising.

In response, many point out that advertisers are effectively funding racism and hate. So, organizers called on sites like Facebook to try and clean their network of hate propaganda. When Facebook refused to budge, the effort went to various advertisers who advertise on Facebook. The campaign called on those advertisers to stop funding hate. In response, advertisers temporarily suspended their ad campaigns in the wake of those developments.

Facebook executives then responded by meeting with boycott organizers in an effort to find a resolution. Unfortunately, organizers left the meetings disappointed because they felt that Facebook hadn’t done enough. While we didn’t really see much of a resolution to the story, it did have quite an impact on Facebook. It also drew a lot of attention to the problem of hate material flowing through social media.

History does have an awful way of repeating itself. Our 4th biggest story of the year certainly showed that. Previously, some European countries tried to institute a so-called link tax law. The law would force aggregators to pay a license fee for continuing to legally post links on their news aggregator services. In Spain, laws were created to enforce this. In response, Google pulled out of Spain. For big publishing, Ad revenue dried up, subscriptions started vanishing, and traffic plummeted. Big publishers were left begging for the return of Google.

Of course, that was years ago, what about now? Well, it seems that the same thing is happening. This time, it is happening in Canada and Australia. The notorious Canadian Heritage Ministry made an initiative to institute a link tax law. Digital rights advocates expressed outrage that this is even being attempted. It also undermined the current Liberal governments good will initiatives to make Canada an innovation leader in the world. Still, the ministry is pushing for such laws and is backed by, you guessed it, big publishing.

While this is still only in the proposal stages, Australia is much further along. The Australian government is pushing for their own link tax at the behest of, you guessed it, big publishing. Facebook, for its part, threatened to delete their news feeds in Australia, but the Australian government decided to forge ahead with this short-sighted law quickly. The law is called the News Media Bargaining Code. It would compel aggregators to pay a license fee for the privilege of linking and sending traffic to news sources. Google and Facebook obviously objected to the so-called “Code”, but the Australian government seems bent on repeating history again in this manner.

Our third big story of the year has absolutely huge implications in the world of security and privacy. Spy organizations from around the world, for years, have called for the creation of backdoor access to all encrypted communications online. Security experts and digital rights advocates rightfully point out that you can’t magically have a back door in encryption and still expect to have the same level of secure communication online. Unfortunately, logic and reason have little effect in the world of politics.

So, in response, representatives from big tech, like Facebook and Google, were hauled before US government committee meetings. Facebook had been suggesting that they want end-to-end encryption in their systems. That, as it later turned out, was something that was years away from reality. Still, lawmakers pushed the tech industry to, well, “nerd harder” as some put it. They then issued ultimatums that said that either they figure out a way to create backdoors or they would be legislated to do so. Facebook, at the very least, didn’t budge and said after those meetings that they have no intention of trying to create back doors.

That led to lawmakers to table various bills banning effective encryption. While there were a number of dangerous laws, the most famous of them was known as EARN IT. The idea is that different platforms needed to create backdoor access or else risk added liability. As time went on, EARN IT became watered down to the point where the direct demands for backdoor access became almost non-existent. This is probably for the best because lawmakers were effectively demanding the impossible anyway.

Still, the push for backdoors carries on and will no doubt rear its ugly head again at some point in the future.

Some stories seem to last a long time. Others seem to be a more recent thing. The number 2 story of the year wound up being more of the latter. Back in October, the Department of Justice filed a lawsuit against Google for anti-trust violations. Observers point out that the case was not only weak, but very likely rushed for political reasons. Still, it marked the opening move by the US government to go after big tech on this front.

While what followed was a bit of a lull, December marked the month that the floodgates were opening. Two additional anti-trust lawsuits were filed against Google and two more anti-trust lawsuits were filed against Facebook. In all, 5 anti-trust lawsuits wound up being the big total for the year. The lawsuits targets different aspects of the largest players in technology. For Google, it was not only how applications typically chose Google as a default search engine, but also about how it runs its advertising. Allegedly, the advertising aspect is about how Facebook and Google worked a bit too closely together.

Facebook, for its part, was sued in an effort to break the company up. The company bought entities like WhatsApp and Instagram. The lawsuit suggests that this was a bid to keep Facebook the dominant player in the industry and to keep competition at bay. The lawsuit demanded that big corporate purchases be banned in the interim as the lawsuit proceeded. For those who hoped that government would finally “reign in” big tech, all this will likely be huge developments for them.

Chances are, this story is only just getting started and we’ll see more developments bleed over into the next year.

That ultimately leads us to our biggest story of the year: The war Trump is waging on Section 230. Had it not been for more recent developments, this story might not have even gotten into the top 5. The fallout of the war, however, keeps reaching more and more ridiculous proportions.

As mentioned earlier in the list, social media has been long accused of having a pro-conservative bias. People who spout fabricated rumours and conspiracy theories often get left untouched because they are basically right leaning. In the realm of misinformation, the gulf between who the rules apply to and those who don’t kept growing and growing. The criticism grew louder and louder until finally, one platform took action in a somewhat mundane, but public way.

Donald Trump spouted the debunked theory that mail in ballots leads to voter fraud. In response, Twitter attached a warning label urging users to get the facts about mail in voting. Unlike Trumps response to COVID-19, Trump acted immediately by condemning Twitter for having the audacity to put facts anywhere near his tweets. Trump vowed to “hit back hard” that night.

The very next day, Trump signed an executive order calling for the repeal of Section 230. As pointed out countless times in this podcast, Section 230 is the legal provision that grants platforms immunity to certain forms of liability. Specifically, if a user posts something illegal, platforms aren’t automatically liable for the actions of their users. As a result of this, many point out that if Trump got his way, then Twitter might be forced to ban Trump to avoid the liability. Furthermore, Trump can’t change the law by executive order.

Trump tried to get the Department of Justice to repeal Section 230 at one point. Later on, he urged the FCC to repeal the laws. Some were thinking that Ajit Pai will keep to his so-called “hands-off” approach to regulation and simply not carry out Trumps demands. Pai, however, decided to flip flop and carry out Trumps marching orders. The FCC laid out why it feels it can gut Section 230.

After the election hit, Trump knew time was running out. So, he demanded that lawmakers insert Section 230 killing provisions into the National Defense Authorization Act (or NDAA). The NDAA is basically a spending bill that funds the military. When lawmakers refused, Trump threatened to defund the military by vetoing the legislation. Lawmakers didn’t cave to the pressure, saying that the NDAA is no place for such a debate. They ultimately passed the NDAA and it eventually wound up on Trumps desk. Trump, for his part, carried through with the threat and vetoed the bill. He said that the lack of Section 230 killing provisions is a gift to China – though he didn’t cite any details.

Many point out that there is a risk that the NDAA could fail to pass for the first time in American history. Still, lawmakers aren’t out of options. This is because they can vote on the legislation again and go for what is known as a “super majority”. This requires even more lawmakers to pass the legislation than a simple majority. If they get that, then lawmakers could effectively override the veto and pass the NDAA anyway. Members of the military industry expressed frustration with the situation and said that the country is facing a national security risk by defunding the military.

At any rate, the battle has now grown to the point where the whole country could start grinding to a halt – all because of a Trump temper tantrum and his demands that Section 230 should be revoked. To this point, we are continuing to watch for updates to this story as they roll in.

While those are the top 10 biggest stories of the year, we wanted to share two honourable mentions.

The first honourable mention is the Recording Industry Association of America attempting to take down YouTube-DL. YouTube-DL is a backup tool that allows users to back up videos from streaming services. Journalists use it especially so they can examine social media video’s more thoroughly.

As usual, the RIAA tried to make it all about themselves and issued a DMCA takedown notice against the tool on GitHub. Numerous repositories were taken down as a result – though the home page remained active. The RIAA claimed that YouTube-DL is a tool that circumvents YouTube’s DRM and is therefore a copyright violation. While Github initially complied, the Electronic Frontier Foundation responded by sending their own letter to GitHub. The EFF explained that YouTube-DL isn’t breaking a DRM as the RIAA claimed. They cited many legal cases and called for the reinstatement of YouTube-DL’s various Github repositories.

In response, GitHub re-instated the repositories and decided to initiate a review of the takedown reviews process. They also created a legal defense fund for software developers to try and tackle frivolous takedown notices in the future as well. While the RIAA expressed displeasure for the situation, many point out that this is a huge win for software freedom.

The other honourable mention goes to the much talked about botched launch of Cyberpunk 2077. CD Projekt S.A. was developing the hotly anticipated game for some time, but ran into numerous delays. The company instituted “crunch” hours which basically mandated 6 day work weeks for their employees to get the game out the door. After all those delays, the game was ultimately released.

The launch proved disastrous for the company. The game was filled with bugs and faced many stability issues. Game crashes were a common complaint. Sony and Microsoft offered refunds for the purchase. Sony even took things a step further by pulling the game from its game store. Many suggest that this is a highly unsusual step.

Internally, executives faced pointed questions from their own staff over how such a broken game wound up being released. Some called the self-imposed goals “unrealistic”.

Things went from bad to worse for the company. Sales forecasts were missed and the stock value dropped by as much as 42%. One investor even filed a lawsuit and is seeking class action status under various securities laws. The company promised to fix what is broken in the game, but one thing is for sure: they have dug themselves quite a huge hole to dig out of at this point.

Security incidences also had a huge impact in the world of technology. We should offer a small caveat in that things got so busy on other fronts, we didn’t have much time to cover these at certain times of the year. Still, we were able to cover a number of those incidences. Like last year, we are going by number of entries, documents, or affected individuals. So, here are the top 10 biggest security incidences we were able to cover this year:

First up is a two way tie for number 9: The Unacademy Breach: 22 Million Accounts

The second part of the number 9 tie: The “db8151dd” Leak That was sourced to Covve: 22 Million compromised

Number 8: Webkinz: 23 Million Accounts Compromised

Number 7: Aptoide: Up to 39 Million Accounts Compromised

Number 6: Tokopedia: 91 Million Accounts Compromised

Number 5: 200 Million American’s compromised. Possibly sourced to the US Census Bureau

Number 4: Microsoft: 250 Million Records Exposed

Number 3: Weibo: 538 Million Users Compromised

Number 2: AIS of Thailand: 8 Billion Records Exposed

… and the number 1 security incident we were able to cover this year: Cam4: 10 Billion Records Exposed

While that was happening on the news front, we also have some great memories on the entertainment front. Here is the top 10 best games we’ve reviewed this year:

Number 10: Vegas Stakes (Game Boy)

Number 9: Paperboy (Game Boy)

Number 8: Snow Bros Jr. (Game Boy)

Number 7: Boggle Plus (Game Boy)

Number 6: Operation C (Game Boy)

Number 5: Missile Command (Atari 2600)

Number 4: Montezuma’s Revenge (Atari 5200)

Number 3: Moon Patrol (Atari 5200)

Number 2: Super Mario Advance 2 (Game Boy Advance)

… and the best game we’ve played this year is… Vanguard (Atari 5200).

Now, moving over to music, here are the top 10 best tracks we’ve reviewed this year:

Number 10: Enya – May it Be

Number 9: ZYON – No Fate (Struggle Continous Mix)

Number 8: Toy Box – The Sailor Song

Number 7: Sum 41 – In Too Deep

Number 6: System S.F. Feat. Anna – Look to the Sky (Original Mix)

Number 5: Clubstepper – Fiddle (Club Mix)

Number 4: Linkin Park – Numb

Number 3: Redemptive – Lucid Voyage

Number 2: Da Buzz – Alive (C&N Club Mix)

… and the best track we’ve heard all year goes to… Lost Tribe – Gamemaster (Lost Tribe’s ’99 Mix)

We hope you enjoyed those lists as much as we’ve enjoyed making them. We certainly look forward to finding out what is in store for next year as well!

Outro

Before we close out the final episode of the year, we got one quick announcement. This month, we posted the November Wiki content patch. What happened while creating this patch even surprised us. While updating Corsten’s Countdown, we found out that the show is coming to an end. So, in all, we have completed the shows archive with all 700 episodes being posted. With one less show to update on a semi-regular basis, the question is, what now? Well, as it turns out, Ferry Corsten has started a new show called Resonation. So, at some point, we’ll just add that and carry on updating that show instead.

The patch also contains other goodies like the update of Fables and the Random Movement Podcast. In addition to that, the patch also notes that we have completed the Always Alive podcast. All 160 episodes are now up with as much information as we were able to obtain.

Moving forward, we’ll be adding the second Drum N Bass show, the V Recordings Podcast. Already, we have posted the first 12 episodes along with episode 101. In addition to this, we have posted information about Bryan Gee as well as the labels for V Recordings, V Records, and Liquid V. This will be the last drum and bass show for a while, though. After this, we will start the process of adding a new genre.

If you’d like to see more Drum N Bass shows get added to the Wiki in the interim, you can always apply to be a volunteer. We already have the ideas for shows as well as information sources. The thing we need is manpower to encode the shows information. We can guide you on the process as well if you’d like. I’ll leave a link in the transcript for the page where you can apply to be a volunteer. Note that volunteers can also simply add information about music they are more familiar with. It doesn’t have to be Drum N Bass.

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!

Alternatively, you can simply buy us a coffee via ko-fi.com/freezenet!

…and that’s this months episode for December, 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 follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr. Thank you for listening and see you next month.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.



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