Freezenet’s Official Podcast: December 2021: The Year End Special

In the 38th episode of the Freezenet official podcast, “The Year End Special”, we take a look at the news and reviews we covered in December 2021.

Welcome to the public version of the Freezenet official podcast for December, 2021. This episode is entitled “The Year End Special” as we wrap up what we all saw throughout the year. This episode also contains all the makings of a normal episode as well.

This episode discusses the US threatening trade tariffs with Canada over the Digital Services Tax. We also talk about how the Irish DPC is on the receiving end of a criminal complaint for corruption. In addition to that, we talk about the multiple court rulings in the US over both the Texas abortion laws and the Texas moderation ban law.

In addition to all of that, we cover all the usual music and video game reviews. We even cover a story about how we found out that Santa is a top tier Internet hacker. With this being the year end special, we also cover the top 10 big stories, games, and music we’ve reviewed all year. All this and more on this month’s episode!

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

Edit: This episode is now publicly available on Patreon.

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


It’s the 2021 Year End Special

Hi, I’m your host, Drew Wilson.  Welcome to episode 38 of the Freezenet official podcast for December, 2021.  Here are your top 3 headlines:

The Top 3

As Prime Minister Justin Trudeau directs his ministers to carry through with the war on the Internet, the US threatens Canada with trade war over new Digital Services Tax

Irish GDPR regulators face corruption allegations after being accused of attempting to water down European privacy laws on behalf of Facebook

… and Texas loses the appeal for it’s Moderation Ban law, but gets a second victory over speech problematic abortion law

Top Stories

Before we get into our top three stories, I wanted to start this episode off by giving a huge thank you to all the Freezenet readers out there.  For the first time ever, Freezenet has earned more money than it spent for a month.  That month being November.  While this is only one month worth, this has helped to renew my enthusiasm to keep moving forward with the site.  Whether you were curious about our Wiki, checking out our news, sifting through our reviews, or checking out our recordings, it has all made a difference in a very big way.  So, thank you for helping Freezenet find this success.  I hope I can continue to make Freezenet just that much better for you as we move forward.

Now, for the top three stories.

The outlook for digital rights in Canada has been growing increasingly ugly.  This month, things aren’t looking any better.  The Canadian parliament returned for a brief session after the election.  In preparation for that, we looked at some of the timelines for when the government was going to start tabling their Internet crackdown.  For us, it seemed very plausible to have the re-introduction of Bill C-10.  This is because the speech regulation idea was already made into a piece of legislation, so the work seemed to be done already.  So, all that seemed to be necessary was re-tabling that bill.  Failing that, it would be more likely that this crackdown would start next year. The Christmas break lasts all the way up to January 31st, so that means there is more than a whole month worth of reprieve should that happen.

Shortly after that, revelations have surfaced suggesting that Bell Media and other corporate entities are pushing for Internet censorship.  Specifically, they are wanting to resurrect a previously failed attempt to get ISPs to block websites accused of copyright infringement.

Previous attempts in 2018 have failed after the Canadian regulator, the CRTC, rejected this effort.  The regulator, at the time, credited the efforts of digital rights organizations like Open Media and CIPPIC for putting a stop to this.

Similarly, courts have weighed in on such censorship efforts, expressing concern about the implications of freedom of expression should such efforts move forward.

It is unclear if the Canadian government will add this to their war on the open Internet at this stage.

One idea that has been floated for several years now is adding a tax on large tech giants.  Multiple political parties raised this idea during the 2019 general election, but the idea was a bit less clear at the time.  The tax ultimately failed to materialize as a law during the previous session of parliament.

The idea was again raised during the 2021 election and was a bit more clear.  The idea was to apply a 3% tax on various web giants such as Netflix and Amazon.  The idea is that the tech giants don’t otherwise pay GST in Canada.  This over top of the idea that Canadian businesses do pay such taxes in the first place.  This paved the way for the argument that Canadian businesses are at a disadvantage and that such a tax would level the playing field.  This received broad party support in the end for the most part.

During this government, it seems that the Liberals have decided to go ahead and actually try to implement such an idea into law.  This drew the ire of the United States.  The US argued that the tax unfairly targets American businesses and is a violation of International trade agreements.  As a result, they are now raising the possibility of slapping Canada with new tariffs because of this.  This ultimately raised the prospect of adding a new dimension of a potential trade war between Canada and the US.

Later on, the Canadian government session ended and Parliament went on the Christmas break.  No legislation was forthcoming to start pushing the war on the open Internet.  This despite promises to crack down on the Internet in the first 100 days of the Liberals mandate.  This pushes things back by more than a month, suggesting that the government intends on pushing the legislation soon after the break.

With Parliament on break, Prime Minister, Justine Trudeau, released a mandate letter for his ministers to follow.  The letter details various elements of the war on the open Internet.  One thing that stood out for us is the fact that Trudeau is wanting to move forward with the link tax.  This despite the lack of any mention of this during the Throne Speech.

While one could be led to believe that the link tax was going by the wayside thanks in part to Google inking deals with various big publishers, it seems that the government does, in fact, intend on moving forward with this anyway.  As such, it now looks like all 7 of our predictions ended up being correct after all.  Previously, we thought we only got 6 of the 7 predictions correct when we saw the Throne Speech.

Another aspect of the mandate letter is the online harms proposal.  Trudeau wrote, “Continue efforts with the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada to develop and introduce legislation as soon as possible to combat serious forms of harmful online content to protect Canadians and hold social media platforms and other online services accountable for the content they host. This legislation should be reflective of the feedback received during the recent consultations.”

For us, this either pays lip service to the consultation or that the government only intends on reflecting on submissions they happen to agree with.  Either way, the online harms proposal is moving forward despite every account concluding that this proposal should be scrapped completely and brought back to the drawing board.  If you wanted further evidence that the consultation was nothing more than a box ticking exercise, you basically got it with the mandate letter.

For us, all of this suggests that things are going to be bad for the Internet and digital rights.  These latest developments opens up the possibility that things could be a whole lot worse than previously thought – an accomplishment really when you consider how bad things were already.

Meanwhile in Europe, things are getting ugly between digital rights advocates and Irish regulators.  While the GDPR did a lot to bring new protections for consumers in Europe, the law is by no means perfect.  One particularly sore spot revolves around the Irish DPC (or Irish Data Protection Commission).  They have faced accusations of not handing out fines very quickly.  When fines were handed out for privacy violations, the numbers were rather small.

In October, after Facebook was found to have violated the GDPR, Irish Regulators laid out a fine of 36 million euros.  Critics point out that this would do nothing to act as a deterrent as the company could easily make that amount within a few hours of stock trading.  In 2020, Facebook reportedly made $84.2 billion.  So, the fine amounted to 0.05% annual turnover, far lower than the 4% annual turnover that the GDPR allows.

More recently, Digital Rights Organization, None of Your Business, filed Freedom of Information requests.  This after a seemingly cozy relationship between the Irish regulator and Facebook.  The organization concluded that, with these documents, they have evidence that the Irish DPC was attempting to water down the GDPR laws to benefit Facebook.

The Irish DPC responded by denying the allegations.  They call the accusations “utterly untrue”.  They further commented that the accusations have no substance “but with the advancement of a theory, central to which is an allegation that, acting in bad faith, the DPC sought to subvert the procedures of the EDPB”.

Max Schrems of None of Your Business commented, “It is painfully obvious that Facebook simply tries to bypass the clear rules of the GDPR by relabeling the agreement on data use as a ‘contract’. If this would be accepted, any company could just write the processing of data into a contract and thereby legitimize any use of customer data without consent. This is absolutely against the intentions of the GDPR, that explicitly prohibits to hide consent agreements in terms and conditions”.

From there, things escalated after the Irish DPC sent a takedown request, demanding the removal of documents the organization received.  Noyb replied, “Yesterday night, the Irish Data Protection Commission (DPC) sent an extraordinary letter (PDF) to noyb, saying it would “require [noyb] to remove the draft decision from your website forthwith, and to desist from any further or other publication or disclosure of same”. noyb refused to self-censor and limit the public’s access to problematic decisions. Alternatively, noyb invited the DPC to bring legal proceedings before the relevant Court in Austria, instead of sending letters that are intended to intimidate complainants.”

NOYB later accused the Irish DPC of attempting to remove their access to a GDPR procedure.  In response, the organization filed a criminal complaint for corruption.  Noyb wrote, “noyb has filed a criminal report (“Sachverhaltsdarstellung”) with the Austrian Office for the Prosecution of Corruption (WKStA). As the target of the potential criminal act is based in Austria, it seems that the Austrian criminal act applies. The criminal report concerns the relevant DPC staff. The WKStA has to review if there is ground to start an investigation. The presumption of innocence applies.”

It’s worth noting that Schrems and Noyb do seem to know what they are doing when it comes to legal issues in Europe.  Back in 2020, we reported on Schrems’ legal challenge to the so-called SHIELD laws.  The case was taken all the way up to the highest court in Europe and Schrems ultimately won the case.  Whoa indeed.  So, this is by no means going to be a one-sided legal fight.

Back across the pond, this month offered a good news, bad news story in the US.  Both involve the State of Texas.  A good news story involves the legal challenge to the Texas moderation ban law.  An appeals court ruled that businesses are also protected under the US Constitution with regards to free speech.  The judge ultimately sided with the plaintiffs, ruling that the law should be struck because it is unconstitutional.  U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman wrote, “HB 20 prohibits virtually all content moderation, the very tool that social medial platforms employ to make their platforms safe, useful, and enjoyable for users”.

The ruling is seen as a victory for free speech.  However, we noted that the case could ultimately be appealed to the Supreme Court which is controlled by conservative judges.  So, despite the victory, the push to make the moderation ban law unconstitutional does face an uphill battle ahead.

Later on, we reported on the US Supreme Court making a ruling about the Texas Abortion laws.  For a second time, the US Supreme Court ruled against the Constitution and allowed SB8 to stand.  This marks the second time the court has ruled on the basis of political opinion as opposed to the actual law.

It is noted that the court is going to allow individual lawsuits from clinics to proceed, though it’s hard to see such lawsuits being successful given the courts behaviour.

The abortion law, or SB8, is noted to being a major blow to women’s rights.  It is also a major blow to free speech rights because it outlaws anyone giving medical advice related to abortion anywhere.  This includes on the Internet regardless of whether or not the advice resulted in an abortion.

Certainly no shortage of dramatic stories this month.  Let’s take a look at some of the other stories making news this month.

Other Stories Making News

Last month, we brought you news about the recent push in the UK to move the Online Safety Bill forward.  This piece of legislation is similar to the Online Harms Proposal in Canada.  The UK wants to implement laws that regulate speech online.  UK Culture Secretary, Nadine Dorries, told the media that the next version of the Online Safety Bill will be tougher. Dorries commented that the legislation now is in a “different place” then it was before.  While discussing online harassment, Dorries commented, “The online platforms have the ability to stop that now. They just choose not to. This bill will ensure that they do.”

NSO Group has made it into the headlines yet again this month.  Major tech company, Apple, is filing a lawsuit against NSO Group.  Apple said that it wants to hold NSO Group “accountable for the surveillance and targeting of Apple users”.  The news of the latest legal problems with the malware vendor follows up earlier reports in the US.  The US Department of Commerce has, according to some, blacklisted the company.  That renders doing business with that company more difficult – especially if you reside in the US.

The International Federation of the Phonographic Industry, or IFPI, is upset that safe harbour provisions could apply to caching systems online in Europe.  The notoriously anti-technology organization is calling, through a letter, for so-called “due dilligence” provisions before caching can legally qualify for safe harbour provisions.  It’s unclear what sway they and other letter co-signers have on these particular European laws.

Canadian spy organization, the Communications Security Establishment (or CSE), is sounding the alarm over a rise in black hat hacking.  A report they issued describes the rise of online crimes as, “Brazen, sophisticated, increasing in frequency, and, for the cybercriminals, very profitable”.  Despite the new report, the Canadian government, at the time, continued to be reluctant in moving forward with privacy reform.

After facing mounting criticism, Canadian Innovation Minister, Francois-Philippe Champagne, said that privacy reform is a “top priority” for him.  This after his own party made only passing mention of privacy reform in their platform.  What’s more, the government made no mention of this during the Speech from the Throne.  The Minister, during the last government, said that privacy reform was his top priority after facing criticism that the government was dragging its feet on the legislation.  This resulted in the legislation dying on the orderpaper.  Still, the Minister said that the legislation is supposedly coming in 2022.

Meanwhile in the UK, British Lord, Lord Lipsey, has accused UK Digital Rights Organization, Online Rights Group, of being “extreme libertarians“.  The comments come as the Online Safety Bill is in the drafting process.  Lipsey stood up in the House of Lords and said that Online Rights Group only believes in “American” style free speech values above all else.  Critics have responded by pointing out that, in the context of the Online Safety Bill, no one even really knows what Lipsey means by that.  For some, the idea that proponents have been reduced to petty name calling lends support to the idea that the legislation is simply indefensible.

Notorious facial recognition surveillance company, Clearview AI, has made news this month.  The Canadian Privacy Commissioner, along with the BC and Alberta counterparts, has ordered the company to stop collecting people’s personal information in a strongly worded letter.  The BC Privacy commissioner has noted “the company’s refusal to comply with recommendations made in the investigation report by the Privacy Commissioner of Canada”.

As a result, they have issued another strongly worded letter, saying that the company needs to delete the facial recognition profiles of all British Columbian’s by January 25, 2022.  Failure to comply would result in the commissioners being very disappointed in the company.  Lack of action from the company’s part could lead to even more finger wagging and more strongly worded letters.  After all, they can’t legally do anything else in their roles of privacy commissioners, so it’s not their fault that this is all they can really do.  At any rate, it adds another argument for privacy reform if you really needed one more reason for it.

With Canadian privacy laws being mentioned so much these days, we thought we’d offer our own ideas on how to reform Canadian privacy laws.  After all, it’s one thing to criticize how things are now, but it’s quite another to actually offer constructive ways of making the system better.  So, we offered a roundup of 5 ways privacy laws and enforcement can be improved.

The first improvement is to learn from the European experience and establish an enforcement arm ready for a major influx of complaints and compliance problems.

The second is to implement something similar to Europe where maximum penalties are a percentage of annual turnover rate.  This way, you can scale fines from the smallest players trying to get by to the large tech giants that, so far, see fines for privacy violations as the cost of doing business – and very minor ones at that.

Third is to implement mandatory self-reporting to reduce the problems of secrecy surrounding data leaks and breaches.

Fourth is to establish a standard for how personal information is stored and used.

Finally, offer resources for businesses so they can more easily be in compliance with such privacy laws.  That way, such laws would be primarily about securing personal information rather than turning small businesses into free government ATMs.

In our view, such ideas would go a long way in making meaningful progress to better secure people’s personal information in the end.  Sure, they could be refined and improved on, but that should offer a good starting point at the very least.

YouTube has released its transparency report.  In it, the company says that 99% of copyright claims go undisputed.  They conclude that their ContentID system is working as a result.  Critics quickly pushed back on that.  Timothy Geigner of Techdirt notes that the 1% figure actually represent roughly 2.2 million cases which is a lot.  The EFF, meanwhile, agrees that the report hides a lot.  They contend that creators are often pressured to not issue counterclaims to their video’s over fears of having their channels suspended.  InfoJustice comments that the report actually shows that overblocking of otherwise legitimate content is a very real problem on the platform.  All three generally agree that the copyright system on YouTube is still very broken to this day.

A proposed amendment to European law could threaten the security of HTTPS.  That’s according to security advocates.  The amendment relates to the European Digital Identity Framework (or eIDAS).  The amendment in question is known as Article 45.  Certificate Authorities, under this new proposed amendment, would be required to be approved by European member countries first.  This without proper clearance to operate as a trusted third party.  The EFF has blasted the amendment, noting that this threatens to undermine years of work to make HTTPS a global Internet standard.

Finally, we are seeing a conclusion of sorts to the dramatic Desjardins data breach story.  In 2019, Desjardins managed to defy the laws of mathematics after losing more than 100% of their customers data in a breach.  It’s a breach that was so bad, it was actually an accomplishment.  A former employee apparently exfiltrated the data which sparked a class action lawsuit.  The company has reportedly settled that lawsuit for $201 million.  The Quebec based company has reportedly earned a little over $2 billion in profit for the year of 2020, so this does account for nearly 10% of annual profit.  It’s unclear if the settlement is satisfactory for critics.  Still, the Canadian Privacy Commissioner did say that the company  did, in fact, break privacy laws.

Video Game Reviews

What can we say?  What a way to end the year.  Now, let’s turn towards 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 month’s Steam game, we played the first person shooter game, Far Cry 3.  You can check out what we first saw directly on our site or via YouTube.

We then followed that up with our Playstation 3 game of the month.  This month, we played the action adventure game, Uncharted 2: Among Thieves.  You can also check out that 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:

First up is Tetrisphere for the Nintendo 64.  An impressive 3D take on the classic Tetris puzzle game.  Nice lighting effects, excellent music, and great concepts all around.  This one earns an impressive 96%.

After that, we tried Paperboy for the Sega Genesis.  Nice learning and difficulty curve, though the graphics, although improved, struggle to keep up with other games at the time.  Still, this one gets a great 80%.

From there, we tried Last Battle for the Sega Genesis.  A game that is up there in difficulty and has repetition problems.  Still, the non-linear nature of this game does add some quality.  This one gets a mediocre 62%.

Finally, we tried Space Harrier II for the Sega Genesis.  Another tougher game to play, though the pseudo-3D environment is pretty impressive.  This one gets a solid 72%.

Music Reviews

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

Pavement – Cut Your Hair

Angelfish – Suffocate Me

The Grays – The Very Best Years

Raven – The Rocker

Iggy Pop Feat. Sum 41 – Little Know it All

Beck – Loser

That Dog – Old Timer

Cheap Trick – Woke Up With a Monster

… and finally, Nine Inch Nails – March of the Pigs

Picks of the Month

So, that leads us to our pick of the month.  This month, our pick of the month belongs to Tetrisphere for the Nintendo 64.  Also, be sure to check out Paperboy for the Sega Genesis and Iggy Pop Feat. Sum 41 – Little Know it All.


And in other news

It’s no secret that the Catholic Church isn’t exactly huge fans of Santa.  Still, what one Roman Bishop did didn’t exactly garner praise from people in general. He told a group of children that Santa doesn’t exist.  The children were horrified and the move left parents outraged.  Reverend Alessandro Paolino later issued an apology on an official Facebook post, but insisted that Bishop Antonio Stagliano didn’t mean to dash the hopes of the children.  I’m going to take a wild guess and say that this wasn’t what the Bishop hoped to be known for in the media.

You might be surprised to learn that there are still Sears operations that are running these days.  Believe me, I was just as surprised that the company still exists.  However, the company caught yet more controversy when they trained a bunch of people for two weeks to be contractors, only to notify many of them that they are being laid off.  That alone would be controversial, but the fact that they did it over a massive Zoom call right before Christmas really rubbed people the wrong way.  One distraught employee recorded the whole video conference and posted the incident online.  So, apparently, the lesson is, don’t work for Sears?  At the very least, the actions do seem rather cold.  Was that wrong?  Should Sears not have done that?

Santa, of course, is known for many things.  A jolly laugh, bringer of presents, has a sleigh, and many other things.  Apparently, a less known fact is that Santa is also a top tier Internet hacker.  In Plymouth, New Hampshire, a speed sign was allegedly hacked.  The hacked sign displayed the word “Naughty” for those driving over the speed limit.  It would also display the word “nice” for drivers driving at the posted speed limit.  Authorities say that they traced the IP address to the North Pole and concluded that Santa is keeping an eye on drivers to make sure everyone is safe.  Yeah, good luck catching me, Santa!  I’m behind 7 proxies!

Year End Top 10 Lists

Since this is the year end special, we decided to look back at the year that was.  We then compiled the top 10 lists for biggest stories, best video games, and music we’ve looked at all year.  So, in keeping with that yearly tradition, we count down the top 10 biggest stories of 2021.

Top 10 Stories of the Year

Coming in at number 10 is the Denuvo DRM controversy.  In November, Denuvo managed to prove once again that DRM rewards the pirates and punishes the legal customer.  In one headline that graced the Freezenet pages, Denuvo DRM did not get along with computer owners who have Intel’s Alder Lake chipsets.  In response, the DRM thought that the user was attempting to use the same license on two different computers.  As a result, the DRM locked legal customers out of their games.

If that weren’t enough bad publicity, Denuvo made headlines again when they allegedly let a domain name expire.  The domain name in question controlled the licenses of over 50 video game titles.  Because of this really bad lapse, legal customers were locked out of their games for the duration of an entire weekend.  Denuvo restored the domain name after, but the damage was already done.

In response, several developers began officially dropping Denuvo from their games.  With the very real fallout, the controversy caused Denuvo to go into full blown damage control.  This after what appears to be really poor decision making on their part.

Our 9th big story revolves around the UK Online Safety Bill.  This is Britain’s version of the online harms debate. The legislation in question has been floating around for years, but more recently in November, the legislation was brought to the forefront.

With accusations of harassment and blame being shifted to social media after the stabbing death of an MP, British officials seemed more motivated than ever to pass that legislation.  The legislation would create a massive governmental super structure of speech police that get to decide what is permitted online and what should be banned.

Critics argue that this bill represents a very real threat to free speech, but the UK Culture Secretary said that she will be ensuring that the next version would be tougher than ever.  As we noted earlier in the podcast, things started getting nasty when Lord Lipsey accused digital rights organizations of being Libertarian extremists for opposing such legislation.  It’s unclear when the bill is going to be tabled.

Moving up to the 8th biggest story of the year is the ever ongoing case against Julian Assange.  The Wikileaks co-founder has been long sought by US authorities for exposing American criminal activity.  This includes the diplomatic cables and the war diaries to name a few data dumps.  In January, we reported on a UK judge blocking Assange’s extradition to the US.  This on the basis of the US penal system being notoriously bad.  The fear is that Assange would take his own life once in American custody.

In response, human, journalism, and digital rights organizations called on the newly elected Biden administration to drop their case against the journalist.  Unfortunately, Biden rejected the calls for human rights and vowed to appeal the case.  Ultimately, the US government appealed, dragging the case on.  More recently, the Biden Administration won that appeal.  Assange’s lawyers have responded by appealing that decision.  As a result, things are starting to look grim.

In the world of digital rights, there is no shortage of controversies.  One organization on the receiving end of plenty of controvery is malware vendor, NSO Group.  Our 7th biggest story of the year really picked up steam in July.  This is thanks to data being leaked that suggests that the organizations malware, Pegasus, targeted journalists and activists in third world countries.  NSO Group denies the allegations, but few really believed them.

In response, Amazon gave them the boot from their AWS services.  Things also took a nasty turn for the company after their parent company headed into liquidation.  Some reports also surfaced, saying that the malware targeted Mexican officials and even the French President among others.  In response, Emmanual Macron pushed for an investigation – no doubt being less than thrilled with the prospect that he may have been a hacking victim.

While the leak of information was denied by NSO Group, the WhatsApp’s Chief Executive sided with those reporting on the leak.  They said that it is consistent with their findings.  It’s worth pointing out that WhatsApp is also in the process of litigating NSO Group as well.

More recently, Apple announced that they were also filing a lawsuit against NSO Group.  They said that the lawsuit was an effort to protect their users from the malware.  Apple contends that the malware targeted their users and subjected them to surveillance.  This as NSO Group was dealt setbacks in the WhatsApp lawsuit.

While NSO Group was, indeed, controversial, they aren’t the only one.  Coming in at number 6 is the controversy surrounding facial recognition and surveillance company, Clearview AI.  Remnants of the Clearview AI story from last year spilled over into this year.

Last year, Canada’s police, the RCMP, were on the receiving end of controversy after they had started using the companies software.  The RCMP insisted that their trial with the software was over and that they discontinued use of the software.

This year, the Canadian privacy commissioner issued a strongly worded letter, saying that the RCMP violated Canadian privacy law when they used the software back in June.  As we noted this month, the Canadian Privacy Commissioner noted the companies refusal to comply with recommendations.  As a result, they are demanding that Clearview AI delete the records of Canadians by January 25, 2022.  Failure to comply with this ultimatum would very likely lead to the commissioners being very very disappointed in the company – and maybe lead to more strongly worded letters.

It may feel like years ago this happened, but our number 5 story of the year will probably be immediately recognizable for many North American’s.  That is, of course, the Gamestop stock and Wallstreet Bets story.  Back in January, Subreddit, Wallstreet Bets, knew that several hedge fund managers were making millions shorting the Gamestop stocks.  So, in response, they began buying up the stock as much as possible.  This caused those shorting the stock to lose millions as a result.

It’s worth pointing out that this also affected some other “meme stocks” as well.  One such stock is, of course, AMC.

In response, the hedge fund billionaires were furious about the situation.  As a result, they began selling their shares in other stocks to shore up their losses.  As a result, the entire US stock market exchange tumbled sharply.

In the midst of the wild swings on the stock markets, RobinHood, a go-to app for Redditors to buy the stock at the time, blocked the purchase of the meme stocks and only gave the option to sell.  This sparked accusations of collusion and, ultimately, also sparked litigation as well as investigations from lawmakers.

While that was happening, the value of Gamestop temporarily dipped.  Some Redditors point out that this was only because of the roadblocks to buying these meme stocks were being erected, resulting in a drop in demand for the shares in question.

News sites began pumping out news articles begging readers to stop buying the meme stocks, but Redditors refused to relent.  They called on each other to “hold the line”.

Roaring Kitty became a major name in the story.  This especially after he got sent a subpoena by lawmakers.  This as the RobinHood app also got sent a subpeona.  While the media continued to try to sell the story that the surge was over, the value is still substantially higher to this day compared to pre-surge levels.

If SB8 and HB20 mean anything to you, chances are, you are following the Texas Moderation and Abortion bills.  This became our 4th biggest story of the year.  Texas made big headlines for some absolutely terrible legislation this year.

Back in September, Texas took the abortion law all the way to the US Supreme Court.  In a split decision, the US Supreme Court ruled against the US constitution and let the law stand.  While the implications for women’s rights are obvious, there are a host of other problems bubbling beneath the surface.

For one, it would deputize ordinary citizens and encourage them to report on their friends, families, and neighbours for the financial incentive of up to $10,000.  For another, it would make it illegal to assist in getting an abortion regardless if the other person knew what was happening.  Additionally, any speech online involving medical advice related to an abortion would also be illegal regardless if that advice led to an abortion.

The decision to effectively overturn Roe v Wade stunned the American legal community to the core.  The highest court of the land has effectively been transformed from a court of law to a court of political opinion.  This after Donald Trump packed the court with conservative activist judges.

In response, Uber and Lyft vowed to pay for their drivers legal fees should they be caught up in all of this.

On the other end of the spectrum, would-be bounty hunters began flooding sites like Reddit as they tried to find ways of cashing in.  Reddit responded by banning that subreddit for obvious violations of community guidelines surrounding harassment.

A so-called pro-life organization also created a whistleblower site for those who wish to report on others for cash rewards.  Multiple web hosts were, however, less than enthusiastic about such a site being on their servers.  In response, the site got kicked off of those hosts.  The site then found a home on Epik’s services – an organization known for being host to far right extremist websites.  Surprising many, even Epik wanted nothing to do with the site and pulled the plug on them too.

In response, the Biden administration, through the Department of Justice, led the charge to try and overturn the abortion ban law.  In October, the case made it back all the way up to the US Supreme Court.  While some outlets were holding out hope that this ruling would be different, they were soon left disappointed.  The Supreme Court chose politics over the law and rejected the Department of Justices plea to block the law.  In December, the court ruled against the constitution again and allowed the law to stand.  It was another stunning defeat for basic civil rights.

While that was going on, Texas was also pushing against lawsuits to stop its moderation ban law.  The law would bar platforms that are not Gab or other right wing echo chambers from banning users for so-called “political viewpoints”.  Of course, everyone knows that this really means freeing far right users from the consequences of their speech.

The bill was signed into law in September.  By the end of the same month, a lawsuit was filed by NetChoice and the Computer and Communications Industry Association.  The idea was to block the law from taking effect through litigation.

In October, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) filed an amicus brief, siding with the plaintiffs.  They contend that curation and moderation is a major part of social media platforms.  By barring this ability to curate content, you violate the right to free speech.

This month, a court agreed, saying that the law violates free speech.  As such, the court blocked the enforcement of the moderation ban law.  Texas, for its part, said that it intends on appealing the decision.  Some are worried that when this case winds up at the US Supreme Court, the court might choose politics over the rule of law again and reverse the decision.  Only time will tell if this comes to fruition.

A big story last year is spilling over into this year.  For our third big story of the year, if you want to cause digital rights conscious people or web developers to groan, all you really need to say is “link tax”.  Indeed, this is a multi-year long story that has really dominated headlines this year as well.  Last year, it was our fourth biggest story.  This year, it moved up to the number 3 spot.

In January, things were looking increasingly combative with Google threatening to pull out of Australia should the country go ahead with the link tax.  This as Facebook was contemplating a very similar move.  The line in the sand had been drawn and it seemed as though things were only going to go nuclear.

While that was happening, a similar story was playing out in Canada.  The Canadian government was openly pushing for a link tax in the country as well.  In response, Facebook warned Canada not to repeat the same mistakes Australia was making.

Then, in February, Google announced the rollout of Google News Showcase.  It seemed that all that tough talk from Google had no bite.  For many, it seemed like a massive capitulation that threw the rest of the Internet under the bus.

Facebook, however, still wasn’t budging and ultimately pulled its news feed from Australia.  In response, one columnist made the idiotic comment that Canada needs the link tax law here because of what is unfolding in Australia.  At the time, it seemed like a recipe to have news feeds and Google News being removed from Canada faster.

Then, Facebook made the stunning move of folding under pressure.  Announcements came forth saying that Facebook was in talks with the big Canadian publishers to implement a link tax.  Despite this development, then Heritage Minister, Stephen Guilbeault, listened to lobbyists and pushed for a link tax law anyway.

By June, some outlets, such as iPolitics, basically threw their credibility in the trash by pushing link tax propaganda and disinformation.  The disinformation being that large tech giants are stealing the intellectual property of their news reports when, in fact, they were posting snippets and thumbnails which is obviously fair dealing.

While all that was happening, a development happened in France.  In July, Google was fined 500 million euro’s for allegedly bargaining in bad faith.  Google, of course, disagreed with the fine and said that they are continuing to bargain in good faith with its Google News Showcase.

As deals began being inked in Canada, unity for a link tax law began to collapse among the big publishers.  Ultimately, the big publishers started to form two different camps: those who are negotiating with the likes of Google and those who are holding out for a better deal with the federal government passing a link tax law.

In November, it looked like the link tax was becoming increasingly dead.  This is thanks to the push not being mentioned in the Throne Speech.  While we had actively predicted that the link tax would be part of the Liberal parties three pronged approach with their war on the open Internet, it looked like it might be fading away.

That relief was short lived, unfortunately.  In December, Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, issued a mandate letter urging his ministers to move forward with the link tax law.  So, it looked like our seemingly wrong prediction is turning out to be a correct prediction after all.

While that story was a truly international one, our number 2 story took place in the US, but completely shocked the world.  On January 6, after getting riled up by speeches from Trump and others, Trump supporters launched a terrorist attack on the US Capitol.  The armed insurrectionists stormed police barricades, smashed windows, stole property, and attempted to hold lawmakers hostage among other things.

At the time, many were wondering what it would take for the likes of Donald Trump to get banned from Twitter, Facebook, and other platforms.  This as he seemed to be above community guidelines and the rule of law.

Apparently, a terrorist attack was, in fact, a bridge too far for these platforms.  Twitter then blocked Trump’s account as a result.  This as his supporters were posting evidence of their illegal activities on social media en-mass.

As the world was shocked at the images of armed guards barricading doors inside the building along with a security guard getting crushed by a door, the bans started rolling out online.  Facebook permanently banned Donald Trump.  Shopify also announced that it banned Trump.  This was quickly followed up by Twitter announcing that it would extend Trumps ban to permanent.

Twitter released a statement explaining why the platform banned the former US president.  However, CEO of Twitter, Jack Dorsey, issued his own comments on the matter later on.  He explained that while he acknowledges the risks of banning Trump under those circumstances, he admitted that the decision was ultimately the right thing to do.

Several supporters were also on the receiving end of various bans.  In response, they began to scatter to right wing echo chambers such as Parler and Gab.  Parler, however, was having problems staying online.  As a result, then CEO, John Matze admitted that it may be difficult to get the site back online.

After the story largely died down, Facebook, in May, said that it is upholding the Trump ban.  However, the permanent ban on Trump was questioned by Facebooks oversight board.

As for Trump, he decided to try and build his own platform.  However, that platform was ultimately unsuccessful.  Trump was also reportedly in talks of setting up a Parler account, but after demanding a controlling stake in the platform, the deal fell through.  Reports also suggust that Trump resorted to writing tweets down on paper and urging staffers to post them online.  This left him basically tweeting into the void.

If you’ve been following Freezenet all year this year, the number one story should not be a surprise.  The biggest story of the year is Canada’s War on the Open Internet.  We actually touched on the link tax prong of this story while discussing developments in other countries, so we will discuss other aspects of this monstrous story.

For quite some time, the Canadian government has been pushing for a speech regulation bill.  This ultimately became known as Bill C-10.  The bill would require large platforms to push Canadian content, treating such sites as cable broadcasting channels.  The content would be strictly about Canadian issues and be required to be translated into English, French, and a multitude of indigenous languages.  Keep in mind, this is being asked of average everyday YouTubers here.  Content that does not comply with these strict guidelines would then get pushed down in ranks and be considered “not Canadian enough”.

The speech implications of this are obvious.  When outcry continued over this, the Canadian government grew nervous.  They moved to quickly shut down transparency processes in February.  This only intensified the controversy surrounding the Broadcasing Act reform legislation.

So, Guilbeault decided to do an interview on the CBC supposedly in an effort to clear the air about Bill C-10.  At the heart of the controversy was the removal of Section 4.1 which would have exempted user generated content.  The interview ended up being only a single question: why not re-instate Section 4.1 and end the controversy?  Guilbeault went through the entire interview with a deer in headlights look and was unable to answer the question.  Instead, he simply attacked opponents for daring to question his intentions.  In response, critics called for Guilbealt to be fired after that disastrous interview in May.

Perhaps the most shocking part about all of this, however, was the NDP’s reaction in all of this.  The NDP had developed a reputation for more than a decade of being supportive of human rights.  This included freedom of expression online.  Unfortunately, the NDP had basically transformed itself into an anti-rights and anti-speech party.  They opted to support the Liberal party and shut down debate on Bill C-10.

With controversy continuing to dog the Liberal party, Trudeau said that he will implement an amendment that makes it “crystal clear” that the legislation does not affect user generated content.  The amendment was tabled and all it did was double down on regulating user generated content.

Guilbealt then conducted another interview on CTV.  This to try and take some heat off of the government.  During the interview, Guilbealt admitted himself that the legislation would regulate user generated content.  When he was asked if there was a threshold for which users would be subject to heavy speech regulation, Guilbeault then went into question dodging mode.  This represented an even bigger disaster of an interview for the Minister.  Shortly after, his staff released a statement basically saying that he takes all his comments back about how it regulates user generated content.  However, the damage was already done and it was seen as a rare moment of honesty from the Minister more than anything else.

Critics called on the Justice Department to review Bill C-10 for violations of freedom of expression.  Unfortunately, the Liberal controlled department, in turn, released a short statement saying that it totally doesn’t violate free speech.  After all, it does violate free speech, but the CRTC totally pinky swears that they won’t actually start violating free speech as a result of this legislation that mandates them to violate free speech.  Honest! As a result of this failure of accountability, the Justice Department ended up being part of the Bill C-10 controversy.

Despite this, Guilbeault demanded that MPs ram through the legislation.  This as the clock started ticking on the legislation to be passed.  In the midst of all of this, the Toronto Star caught controversy after it published misinformation about Bill C-10.  This in their failed attempt to try and do some damage control of their own in an effort to salvage the situation.

C-10 supporters then started growing desperate.  With the facts and law not on their side, they were reduced down to petty name-calling and suggested that if you oppose Bill C-10, then you hate democracy.  For many, this only confirmed that supporters simply do not have a leg to stand on.

Then, an internal memo was published suggesting that the Canadian government was already creating a regulatory hit list.  The memo confirmed, yet again, that Bill C-10 does regulate user generated content.  What’s more is that it showed that this is, in fact, the internal government view. Just days later, more information was revealed that suggests that lobbyists were pushing for the removal of both Section 2.1 and 4.1.  This despite the rampant disinformation saying that Section 4.1 wasn’t needed because of Section 2.1’s existence.  For clarity, the fact is that Section 4.1 exempts the users content while Section 2.1 exempted the users themselves.

Online creators began speaking out, calling for Bill C-10 to be stopped.  Among other things, they contend that it would not only hamstring Canadian creators of today, but also the Canadian creators of tomorrow.  Unfortunately, little of those calls seemed to matter as the lobbyist influenced Bloc Quebecois announced that they would be supporting Bill C-10.  Google also lended its voice to the debate, warning of the implications of creators online.

Things went from scandalous to outright anti-democratic when the Liberal party quickly shut down debate of Bill C-10 in committee.  They then made all the amendments secret and held all of those secret amendments to a vote.  Then, in June, as another middle finger to the Canadian public, the government passed the bill in a secret vote.

The then secret legislation was then made public days later and it confirmed everyone’s worst fears about the legislation.  Right after the bill was introduced in the House of Commons, another gag order was implemented to shut down all debate surrounding the legislation.  Suffice to say, the debate went from anti-democratic to a full blown authoritarian one.  What’s more is that online free speech seemed to be at deaths door at this stage.

That’s when things started turning around in an unexpected way.  The Speaker of the House rose on a point of order and ruled that the secret amendments should be thrown out.  Citing that the committee exceeded its authority, he ordered a reprint of the legislation with the amendments removed.  Since this was happening in June, this made it possible that the legislation could actually run out of time to be passed after all.

With only 5 sitting days left, a motion was tabled to have Section 4.1 re-instated.  With 4 sitting days left, Guilbeault caught even more controversy when he attempted to “introduce” the legislation into the senate despite it not passing in the House of Commons.  Then, with 3 sitting days left, others began realizing what a time crunch this is turning out to be.  Google and the Internet Archive took that moment to speak out about the legislation.  With 2 sitting days left, all the amendments were quickly voted on, then the bill passed the House of Commons under the cover of darkness (at about 1:30AM to be more precise).  It was difficult to tell which way the legislation was going to go at this point.  What we did know was that Section 4.1 re-implementation was shot down.

The legislation then made its way to the Senate.  Senators were upset about how this process was going and found Guilbeault’s actions in all of this “insulting”.  On the final sitting day of the Senate, Liberals successfully pushed for extra sitting days in a last ditch effort to have this law passed.  While things started growing murky as to what was happening, we published a complete list of politicians who voted for and against free speech in the House of Commons.  Unsurprisingly, the Liberals, Bloc, NDP, and Green all supported this disastrous legislation.  The Conservatives, meanwhile, voted against the legislation.

We also published a visualization of what the effects Bill C-10 would have on user generated content.  It was based on the text of the legislation and our knowledge of how basic Search Engine Optimization works.  Senators then agreed with this assessment and expressed reluctance to rubber-stamp the bill.

Then, on the last day of the extra sitting days, Senators voted to have the legislation moved to committee for study.  That move ultimately killed the legislation as it died on the orderpaper when the election was later called.  Senators, in the mean time, remarked how they are absolutely swamped with e-mails from concerned Canadians.

After the election was over, almost nothing changed with the seat counts.  Some speculated that the NDP’s support of Bill c-10 was a play to get more seats in Quebec.  After that failed to materialize, Charlie Angus finally broke is silence and called Bill C-10 a “dumpster fire”.  Unfortunately, the damage was already done as his voting record was clear that he supported it.  So, he didn’t exactly get high praise for his sudden flip-flop.

Shortly after, Pablo Rodriguez was named the new Minister of Canadian Heritage in October.  Some were hoping that his new face would mean a new direction, but those hopes were quickly dashed when he called Bill C-10 “fundamental”.  While the legislation didn’t materialize despite the Throne Speech, it is widely expected that this prong on the Liberals Internet crackdown will rear its ugly head again in the new year.

While we covered the link tax and speech regulation, there was another prong on the Liberals war on the open Internet: Online Harms.  While the Online Harms proposal was less developed than Bill C-10, it still represented a major threat to the free and open Internet.

By May, rumours were circulating about a potential “online harms” proposal.  Combined with the aforementioned link taxes and Bill C-10, experts concluded that the Trudeau government may be one of the most anti-Internet governments in Canadian history.  In response, Michael Geist, Laura Tribe, CIPPIC, and several others signed an open letter urging the government to back off of their war on the open Internet.  The letter was posted on the Internet Society website.

When the election hit in September, several parties vowed in their platforms to tackle harmful content online.  Their approach varied of course, but many agreed to fighting such harmful content.  It seemed that the letter largely fell on deaf ears by that point in time.

Controversially, while that was happening, the Canadian government also allowed a public consultation to move forward.  It started in August and carried on through the election.  I, of course, issued a response trying to offer the perspective of a small website and how it would negatively affect those in Freezenet’s position.

The proposal also sparked near universal condemnation internationally.  US based digital rights organization, the EFF, described the laws as terrible and that the potential harms from the proposal are vast.  Cory Doctorow, meanwhile, described the proposal as a “worst-in-class mutation” of other similar laws around the world.

As for Canadians speaking out, there was a large volume of responses that were posted online.  Submissions came from the Internet Society Canada Chapter, The Independent Press Gallery, Open Media, CIPPIC, Citizen Lab, the Internet Archive, CARL, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group, Access Now, multiple anti racism groups and experts, Ranking Digital Rights, LEAF, PIAC and many other organizations and individual experts.  A quick analysis shows that the condemnation for the proposal was nearly universal.

The themes for why the online harms proposal is a terrible idea were very wide ranging.  In one example, the 24 hour take-down requirements compel platforms to rely on faulty filtering technology and automation.  Another theme that emerged is the fact that site blocking is an unworkable solution and disproportionate in a number of cases.  What’s more is that the consultation was set up and run as not a serious and honest attempt to solicit feedback.  Cited reasons for that include that the consultation paperwork did not offer open ended questions (ala consultation by notice), the fact that the consultation was held during an election to suppress responses, and the fact that the online harms proposal was also part of various political party platforms as the consultation was ongoing to name a few reasons.

Between the backlash internationally, the backlash during the consultation, and backlash from the public at large, the online harms proposal has been getting significant headwind.  When the election was over, Trudeau had his Speech from the Throne which explicitly laid out his plan to move ahead with the online harms proposal anyway.  This only served to confirm to critics that the online harms consultation was little more than a box ticking exercise.

What’s more is that when the session of parliament ended, Trudeau said in a mandate letter that he intends on moving forward with the online harms proposal.  This despite the general consensus that the government really needs to start over from scratch starting with a brand new and proper consultation process.  At this point, everyone is cringing with what could happen next in this debate.  The next session of parliament is scheduled to start on January 31st of 2022.

That, for us, was the top 10 big stories of 2021.  There were plenty of other really big stories that happened that didn’t quite make the list, so it was difficult to really pick the 10 biggest stories.  Still, we tried our best to distill everything down into an admittedly large top 10 list.

Top 10 Games

While a lot needed to be said about the top 10 stories, we can say that the remaining top 10 lists requires far less explanation.  First, let’s count down the top 10 games we’ve played in 2021 along with the scores we awarded them!

Number 10: Paperboy for the Sega Genesis (80%)

Number 9: Rampart for the Game Boy Color (80%)

Number 8: Qix Adventure for the Game Boy Color (80%)

Number 7: Pong: the Next Level for the Game Boy Color (80%)

Number 6: Super Mario Bros. Deluxe for the Game Boy Color (84%)

Number 5: Sonic the Hedgehog 2 for the Sega Genesis (84%)

Number 4: Wario Land 3 for the Game Boy Color (86%)

Number 3: F-Zero X for the Nintendo 64 (88%)

Number 2: Mario Golf for the Game Boy Color (88%)

… and the best game we played this year is Tetrisphere for the Nintendo 64 (96%).

We also got one honourable mention for this years list.  That honourable mention goes to Paperboy for the Game Boy Color (80%).

Top 10 Tracks

In addition to that, we have the top 10 tracks we’ve listened to this year.  We certainly heard quite a variety, and this top 10 list is sure to have something for almost everyone.  Scores are, of course, included.

Number 10: Grindstone – Mir (8/10)

Number 9: DJ Fresh – Nervous (8/10)

Number 8: Rob Zombie – Meet the Creeper (8/10)

Number 7: Linkin Park – In the End (8/10)

Number 6: Inhaler feat. Christian Burns – Something About You (MDE Edit) (8/10)

Number 5: Iggy Pop Feat. Sum 41 – Little Know it All (8/10)

Number 4: Orjan Nilson – La Guitarra (Original Mix) (8/10)

Number 3: Darude – My Game (8/10)

Number 2: Aurora Feat. Naimee Coleman – Ordinary World (Original Radio Mix) (8.5/10)

… and the title for best track we heard this year goes to… Sunny Lax – Mique (Original Mix) (9/10)

What great lists.  We hope you enjoyed those lists as much as we’ve enjoyed making them.  Can’t wait to see what next year has in store for us!


Before we close out the last episode of the year, I got one quick announcement to make.  As you know, I’ve been working hard to completing the archive of the Future Sound of Egypt 400.  For the November Wiki content patch, I’m proud to say that this monstrously large episode has finally been completed.  Two mega episodes down, one to go!  Adding to this is the fact that the archive for old episodes now goes all the way up to episode 422.  We’ve also updated the shows Future Sound of Egypt, Fables, Resonation, V Recordings Podcast, and the Random Movement podcast as well.  We hope you enjoy the latest additions to the Wiki and look forward to adding even more in the future!

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  Through this, you can help make Freezenet just that much better all the while getting some pretty cool stuff in the process.  That’s!

Alternatively, you can simply buy us a coffee via!

…and that’s this months episode for December, 2021.  I’m Drew Wilson for Freezenet.  Be sure to check out our website at 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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