In this fourth episode of the Freezenet official podcast, we check out the news and reviews for the month of February. #SaveYourInternet
Welcome to the public version of the fourth episode of the Freezenet official podcast. For February, Article 11 and Article 13 pretty much dominated the headlines. As a result, there was only one title we could use for this episode: #SaveYourInternet. Also, shout out to Nolan for providing mixing and recording services for this months episode!
Also, the Patreon post has been edited to allow the public to listen to the podcast for free.
A transcript of the podcast follows:
Hashtag Save Your Internet!
Hi, I’m your host, Drew Wilson. Welcome to the 4th episode of Freezenet official podcast for February, 2019. Here are your top 3 headlines:
The Top 3
Dominating the headlines is Article 11 and Article 13 passes the Trilogue stage after Germany surrenders to France.
Coming in at number 2: Mass demonstrations flood European streets days after Article 11 and Article 13 passes.
Rounding out our top 3 is GDPR stats are revealed after Google was fined under the laws.
Of course, we start this months program with a story that is absolutely dominating the headlines: article 11 and article 13. Last month, it seemed that the European people had all but scored the biggest victory since ACTA. Unfortunately, European’s were in for a devastating shock when they learned that Germany caved to pressure from France on the laws. Under the deal, article 13 would take effect as soon as a business earned 10 million Euro’s or has been in business for at least three years. As soon as either of those requirements are fulfilled, those businesses would be required to implement crippling censorship technology that many argue would run them out of business. In short, Germany folded and got nothing out of all of this.
In response, German citizens universally condemned what happened. Bitkom, an organization representing 2,600 businesses blasted the law as “an attack on freedom of expression”. Meanwhile, Eco, a European business organization, accused Germany of being weak and putting “the smallest, small, and medium-sized companies” at risk. Joining the loud chorus of condemnation is Deutschestartups who said that the laws would “put stones in the way” of European tech companies wishing to grow. Finally, Berlin think tank iRights.Lab called for the “immediate and total stop” to the legislation.
Despite the universal condemnation in the strongest of words, rumours began circulating the very next day that the legislation would be finalized within a week.
Shortly after that, digital rights organizations slammed the legislation, blasting it as “the worst one yet”. The Electronic Frontier Foundation said that not only will the laws kill small businesses, but also curb free speech as well. As a result, only the largest tech companies could even hope to survive.
All this leads us into our second big story of the month. Protesters hit the streets en-mass to protest the censorship machines that would be brought in by Article 13. Under the hashtag Artikel13Demo, protesters flooded the streets to voice their opposition to the copyright directive. The impressive showing of force with just two days notice included many signs denouncing the laws as well as chants of “save the Internet” and “Save Your Internet”. Some protesters even sarcastically called themselves fake bots with an incredible re-spawn rate.
All this didn’t sit well with lawmakers. Seeing the uprising in the public, the European commission launched an attack on their own people through news site Medium. In a piece entitled “The Copyright Directive: how the mob was told to save the dragon and slay the knight”, lawmakers blasted their own people, accusing them of “fake” activism. They went further, slamming their own people for a “misinformation campaign” and being part of a disturbing “political culture”.
It seems that the massive written assault on the people only served to infuriate European’s even further. Just days later after the attack piece was published, the European Commission retracted the article. In it’s place, a notice was left behind saying “We have removed this article as it has been understood in a way that doesn’t reflect the Commission’s position.” It’s safe to say that, at this point, the commission now has a PR disaster on their hands on top of it all.
Rounding out our top three are developments with Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation (or GDPR). February started off with a bang when Google was fined $57 million for various privacy violations. French regulators accused the search engine giant of lacking transparency with its ad services. As a result, the fine is being considered the first big fine under the new privacy laws.
In response, Alphabet, Google’s parent company, said that they will appeal the fine. Google said that they work hard to create a personalized ad service and that the fine could negatively impact publishers. That is why they say they will appeal the decision.
Meanwhile, other pieces of data have been made public surrounding the GDPR laws. One statistic says that since the laws were put in place, authorities received 95,000 complaints.
While that number revealed how much the system is being used, it was unclear just how many of those complaints were actually being investigated. That was, until a few days later when another statistic showed that European regulators are dealing with 59,000 data breaches. Curiously, though, the commission has handed out a mere 91 fines so far. Analysts noted the large discrepancy and concluded that the reason why there are so few fines at the moment is because regulators are simply overwhelmed with the sudden influx of work being put forward with all the breaches going on.
In the midst of all of this, it seems that businesses are nowhere near ready to handle privacy in a world where GDPR is the law of the land. According to a new survey, only 30% of businesses even bother with encrypting their data at all. Drilling down through the statistics, 44% of those businesses cite complexity of encryption as the reason why they aren’t even following through with encryption in the first place.
While these stories surrounding the European GDPR laws might seem like a world away from a North American perspective, these stories might be a little closer than you think. Apple and Cisco are currently calling for America to create their own version of the GDPR laws. They say that some of the regulations might need to be tweaked to handle American business realities, but it seems that there is interest in importing the law to the US in the first place. It’s unclear how much traction such a law would get, though.
That was just the top three stories. We’ve got a lot of other things going on here on Freezenet, so here are some of the other stories making news this month.
Other Stories Making News
February started with a bang for another reason as well on the privacy front. A report out of the Washington Post says that Facebook could face a “record-setting fine” by US regulators. The fine came about over the Cambridge Analytica data mining scandal that erupted last year thanks to the alleged influence it had on the US election.
Australia’s censorship creep continues to make headlines. Having already seen rights holders demand that online converting websites and fan-sub sites be added to the censorship lists, it seems other industries are eyeing an opportunity. Now, reports are surfacing that Australian retailers are demanding that their overseas competitors get added to the list. They argue that overseas retailers don’t pay taxes which puts them at a disadvantage. As a result, they want those sites be censored as well.
After test driving an Article 11 compliant news service in Europe should Article 11 pass, Google has openly contemplated killing the service entirely. Such a move would likely devastate online news services in the continent who depend on aggregators such as Google news to direct traffic towards them.
Later on this month, Google revealed some interesting data for its Article 11 compliant news aggregator. They say that after removing pictures, direct links, and snippets, traffic plummeted 45% from the service. That traffic would have otherwise been directed towards the various publishers operating across the continent.
We’ve also got some sad news to share with you. File-sharing news website ZeroPaid appears to be gone now. Founded in 2000, the website sought to cover all the latest in trends surrounding technology and filesharing. It was joined by editor in chief Jared Moya in 2005 and myself in 2007. Together, we covered the news regularly, breaking the stories that took the technology world by storm. This was complimented by a lively community and dedicated following. All of that came to a sudden end in 2012 with the sudden halting of publishing the news. That’s when I went on to found Freezenet to continue where I left off. On December 25, 2018, we saw that the database is no longer connectable, shutting down the last part of the site still operational. While a previous downtime looked grim, that downtime lasted a month. This time around, it looks like the website is not coming back even after attempting to contact administration.
Canada made some headlines this month as well. Earlier on, things got nasty between Unifor and GM. While not something we typically cover, things have gotten so ugly, it spilled over into the realm of free speech. Unifor published an ad for the Superbowl saying to GM that they won’t forget the carmakers greed. This in response to the Oshawa plant closure which could see a large number of employees get laid off which, some say, would devastate the community. In response to the ad, GM threatened to sue Unifor for defamation should they air the ad. Unifor didn’t back down and aired the ad anyway. In our analysis, we figure that Unifor was in for a legal uphill battle should GM go ahead with the lawsuit, but fortunately for Unifor, it seem that GM never followed through on that threat.
A Toronto law firm is sending out legal threats against Canadians accused of file-sharing. The demand notices appear to be threatening Canadians with large fines should they not pay the “settlement” fee which ranges anywhere between a few hundred to a few thousand dollars. The news hit the Globe and Mail with a representative issuing an ominous warning that if you infringe copyright, you will be getting a letter. The problem, however, is that such settlement demand notices are also illegal in Canada. As we reported earlier, Bill C-86 received royal assent. In that legislation, there is an amendment to Canada’s copyright law which states:
“(3) A notice of claimed infringement shall not contain:
(a) an offer to settle the claimed infringement;
(b) a request or demand, made in relation to the claimed infringement, for payment or for personal information;
(c) a reference, including by way of hyperlink, to such an offer, request or demand; and
(d) any other information that may be prescribed by regulation”
While the firm claimed to have thousands of cases before a Canadian Federal court, Freezenet could not find a single case on file. We reached out to Michael Geist for comment and further analysis on this story, but did not hear back.
The Canadian Internet censorship debate has returned in an interesting way. Last October, the Canadian regulator, the CRTC, rejected the Bell Canada coalition’s proposal to implement censorship across the Internet. Under the FairPlay Canada coalition, the proponents of censorship went so far as to accuse their opponents of misleading the public. The CRTC flatly rejected that assertion stating “the Commission considers that the online engagement campaign facilitated the broad and direct participation of thousands of Canadians in the proceeding.” The regulator further states, “the overall participation encouraged by the campaign contributed to a better understanding of the issues before the Commission and did not constitute irresponsible participation by CIPPIC/OpenMedia.”
While it was strong language, that strong language also carried a requirement for FairPlay Canada to pay $130,000 to the digital rights advocates and organizations on top of it all.
Finally, we turn things back over to Europe. European digital rights organization, the EDRi, recently published an analysis of what Article 13 could mean for hosting providers. While a lot of attention surrounding Article 13 revolves around free speech, social media platforms, and the banning of meme’s, it seems that hosting providers could also be held liable for the activities of their users and the webmasters users. They say that hosting providers would be considered performing a “communication to the public”. Therefore, they would be required to implement censorship technology should they meet the requirements of being older than 3 years or making 10 million euros in annual turnover. Additionally, they would also qualify if they get more than 5 million unique visitors per month. This analysis sheds more light on what many are concluding would be the potentially damaging outcomes should these laws pass the next two votes. The next vote is expected sometime in March.
Definitely a lot of dramatic stories happening this month, that’s for sure.
Video Game Reviews
Now, turning towards entertainment, here are the video games we’ve reviewed this month:
First up is Ballblazer for the Atari 7800. Nicely done 3D graphics for a game made in 1987, but competition is finally catching up to this one. No computer AI available still, so it’s still two player only. So, this game ends up with a 66%
Next up is Double Dragon for the Atari 7800. A game released a year after the NES port and it winds up being significantly scaled back. With music stripped out on top of it all, this game flops with a 44%.
Following things up is Alien Brigade for the Atari 7800. Decent controls, but the complete guesswork on the objectives pretty much kills a lot of the enjoyment you could get out of this game. So, it winds up with a 58%.
Finally, we tried Battletanx – Global Assault for the Nintendo 64. Nice improvements over the previous game in the series. Unfortunately, the writing winds up being rather weak and the length ends up being pretty short. Still, with the Tank Bucks system, new tank designs, and interesting missions, this game gets a great 80%.
As for music we’ve listened to this month, we’ve got…
…and finally, Frontliner & Seri – Rains of Fire
Picks of the Month
So, that, leads us to our pick of the month. This month, our pick of the month belongs to Wasted Penguinz – All for Nothing (Extended Version). Also, be sure to check out Battletanx – Global Assault for the Nintendo 64.
And in other news…
An Australian driver decided to harass some cyclists who were on a designated bike path. The driver in question decided to film himself harassing the cyclists and post the encounter onto Instagram. There was one problem with this brilliant plan: the cyclists in question were off-duty police officers. Oops. Hopefully the driver in question learned his lesson after receiving those fines.
An Ontario convenience store was the scene of an attempted robbery. The suspect attempted to get his hands on the money in the till, but the owner of the convenience store was going to have none of it. The owner brandished one of the most feared weapons for all store robbers: a banana. The owner successfully beat the robber back. After multiple messy blows, the robber eventually fled empty-handed. Feel the wrath of my BANANA!!!
A Jamaican phone scammer is regretting a few life choices right now. The scammer called an elderly couple trying to scam them out of some money claiming that they won the lottery. The 94 year old man who answered refused to fall prey to the scam. Seeing the scam going south, the scammer threatened to send assassins to shoot the man in the back of his head. One problem for the scammer: the man he called happened to be a former director for both the FBI and CIA. Long story short, the scammer is now in prison.
Valentine’s day is often a time of year where couples give each other heartfelt gifts. For one couple in Kentucky, a mixup made the attempted show of affection make the news. Nina Harris told her husband that she wanted something that would last, so she asked for some tulips for Valentines day. Unfortunately, Allan Harris, her husband, misheard what she said. When Nina got her gift, she didn’t know how to react when she was given turnips. Allan, to be fair, did pick her up some tulips after that. Really, turnips are slightly more edible than tulips, so maybe it wasn’t all bad? Missed it by two letters.
Before we close out this months episode, we have an announcement. This months website improvement project was a big one. We fully re-coded the entire front-end of the site. Now, the website is mobile friendly. To put it mildly, the project was… trying… at times. Making pixels co-operate in multiple resolutions inside a code-base managed by a WordPress core was extremely annoying after a while. Still, it is worth it because now you get a better reading experience. We hope this improves your experience as you visit the site.
Also, shout out to Nolan for providing recording and mixing services for this month’s podcast again. Really cool of you to make a return to provide your services once again, so thanks so much for that.
If you’d like to get your hands on some behind the scenes stuff, exclusive content, and early access material, you can check out our Patreon page at Patreon.com/freezenet. Through this, you can help make Freezenet just that much better all the while getting some pretty cool stuff in the process. That’s Patreon.com/freezenet!
…and that’s this months episode for February 2019, I’m Drew Wilson for Freezenet. Be sure to check out our website at freezenet.ca for all the latest in news and reviews. You can also like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter at freezenetca. Thank you for listening and see you next month.