Freezenet’s Official Podcast: July 2020: Censor Wars: Episode 1: The American Mennace

In the 21st episode of the Freezenet official podcast, “Censor Wars: Episode 1: The American Mennace”, we take a look at the news and reviews we covered for July.

Welcome to the public version of the 21sr episode of the Freezenet official podcast for July, 2020. This month’s episode is entitled “Censor Wars: Episode 1: The American Mennace” because of the continued war between Trump and social media.

In this episode, we also cover the ongoing encryption debate with Section 230 being dragged into the middle of it all. We also cover the major Cloudflare outage. In addition, we even cover Uber’s loss in the Canadian Supreme Court.

We also cover all the usual music and video game reviews as well as how Canadians can be so polite to their voice activated assistant. All this and more on this month’s official podcast!

We do apologize for the public version being later than normal. The delay of this version is on me because of personal things happening to me in the last few days.

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

Censor Wars: Episode 1: The American Mennace

Hi, I’m your host, Drew Wilson. Welcome to episode 21 of the Freezenet official podcast for July, 2020. Here are your top 3 headlines:

The Top 3

Social media takes further action to curb rule violators as Facebook faces backlash from advertisers

Section 230 in the crosshairs as encryption debate rages

… and a Cloudflare outage knocks out large chunks of the web

Top Stories

We begin this month’s podcast with a story that has pretty much taken over Freezenet at this point. That is Trump, rule violations, social media, and hateful content. This month started with the story about Facebook under increasing pressure. Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg, said that the company will start labeling posts that would otherwise violate the rules, but should be left up because it is also newsworthy.

Shortly after, Twitch temporarily banned Trumps Twitch account from their platform. They said that the account violated the rules surrounding hateful content. The ban is temporary, but it shows that another platform is making moves to curb what they see is hateful content. It further shows that they are unafraid of who is on the receiving end of the ban hammer at this point.

Facebook then received more pushback from advertisers. Advertisers have increasingly joined a boycott against Facebook. They are temporarily suspending their advertising campaigns until Facebook does more to curb racist content. Among the companies and organizations that joined this month are the Canadian Internet Registry Authority, Cineplex, and the big Canadian banks.

Shortly after that, Reddit initiated a purge of rule violating users and communities. Citing harassment of other communities, Reddit purged over 2,000 Sub-Reddits. Among the purged communities are left and right leaning political sub-Reddits. The clear message is that the move isn’t political, but rather, to crack down on harassing behavior and hateful conduct.

In response to the actions of other platforms, a number of right wing users have tried to push Parler as a platform that supposedly believes in free speech. The social media platform start-up was promoted by high profile Republican’s in the US. Parler was even labelled as a Twitter killer. This month, however, we learned that Parler themselves have been handing out bans. The founder cited death threats, the sending of pictures of feces, and pornography as among the reasons for why bans are being handed out. Some of those users have since gone back to Twitter to complain that they were being silenced by Parler.

Facebook then held a meeting with advertiser boycott leaders to discuss what changes need to take place to satisfy them. Following the meeting, the leaders described the meeting as a “disappointment“. One of the leaders said that Zuckerberg and Facebook are not yet ready to address the hate that is on the platform.

Back over on Twitter, US President, Donald Trump, got hit with a copyright complaint. Apparently, he used a rendition of the song, “In the End” by Linkin Park in a campaign video. After the video was posted on Twitter, the post received a copyright complaint. Twitter then took down the video in question. Some time after that, the Tweet itself was deleted.

After that, Twitter then began banning or limiting accounts associated with conspiracy group QAnon. In all, 7,000 bans have been handed out along with limiting 150,000 other accounts. In addition, Twitter is also blocking URLs to sites associated with QAnon from being posted on its platform.

Meanwhile, Trump himself is using the Trademark infringement complaint system to silence criticism. Clay Jones, a political editorial cartoonist, was selling merchandise on TeeSpring. Some of his merchandise made fun of Trump supporters which were depicted wearing Make America Great Again hats. The Trump campaign then sent a trademark infringement complaint. This caused Jones’ TeeSpring account to be disabled. Another complaint was also sent to his RedBubble account. Redbubble has since restored the affected pages. The Fourth Estate condemned the move, saying that they take a rather dim view of people who utilize the intellectual property complaints systems as a censorship weapon.

Turning to another story, Section 230 became a battleground in the midst of the encryption debate. Last month, debate exploded over Section 230 and whether or not platforms should continue to enjoy it under certain circumstances. EARN IT was a major topic for debate as well and became a focal point over whether or not the US should ban effective encryption. While that was going on, another bill was tabled in the senate. The legislation is known as the Lawful Access to Encrypted Data Act. Critics called the bill “worse than EARN IT“. This is because it directly requires companies to incorporate decryption capabilities. It also forces those companies to figure out, on their own, how to comply with such a requirement. The bill has received widespread condemnation from digital rights and security circles.

Meanwhile, Democrats have tabled reforms to Section 230. This legislation is known as PACT. It’s supposed to require platforms to explain their moderation. It also proposes that the FTC should run a whistle-blower program. In addition, reports indicated that the legislation would not shield platforms for knowingly allowing illegal activity on their platforms in the first place.

Early on in the month, digital rights and security advocates called for the removal of EARN IT. As that happened, word came down that a vote on the legislation was imminent. It seemed to be a forgone conclusion that the US was about to ban effective encryption despite the widespread public outcry.

Then, at the 11th hour, a major amendment was tacked on to the bill. This watered down the encryption ban elements before it was passed. It ultimately gave digital rights advocates no time to react. Questions swirled over what the new version meant for encryption because it was all so sudden.

Days after the dust settled, digital rights circles were able to decipher what the new EARN IT looked like. In short, there is no real “EARN IT” aspect of the legislation anymore. However, upon further study of the new bill, it became apparent that EARN IT is still a threat to encryption. This is via a state’s ability to require platforms to have back doors. This can be done by lawsuits which would put platforms on constant edge. So, while EARN IT is watered down, it remains a threat to encryption and, by extension, free speech.

Finally, Cloudflare experienced downtime, resulting in large chunks of the web going offline. The irony of the outage is that Cloudflare is a service that promises to ensure maximum uptime for clients. One angle is that they offer Distributed Denial of Service attack protection. If a website gets hit with a DDOS attack, Cloudflare can activate and serve the pages anyway in response. This ensures uptime for the site itself even though the main server is offline.

For its part, Cloudflare apologized for the downtime. They say that the downtime went on for about 27 minutes. They say it was the result of a configuration error that has since been resolved. While it was only for about a half an hour, it did knock a pretty sizeable chunk of the web offline. Among the services briefly taken offline were cloud workloads from Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure and the Google Cloud Platform. Other services knocked offline include Discord, Shopify, Feedly, Politico, League of Legends, Sling, Doordash, 4Chan, MineCraft, Patreon, and Coinbase. While a sampling, it’s hard to disagree with the idea that this is a pretty big outage.

The outage has caused some to question whether or not Cloudflare has too much of the Content Distribution Network market. This in response to one configuration error knocking so much of the web offline.

With so much already covered this month, it might be hard to believe that we were able to cover anything else this month. We did, in fact, successfully cover other things besides those big three stories. So, here are some of the other stories making news this month.

Other Stories Making News

Online ride hailing service, Uber, has lost in the Canadian Supreme Court. At issue was whether or not Uber drivers must take their disputes with Uber all the way over to the Netherlands. The Supreme Court of Canada very definitively, though not unanimously, ruled 8-1 that disputes between Canadian Uber drivers and Uber must be handled in Canada. The decision paves the way for a large class action lawsuit being filed by a Canadian driver. He is disputing a new agreement he said he was forced to agree with.

Meanwhile, the Canadian Heritage Ministry has gone rogue and is now pushing for a Canadian Link Tax law. Up until that point, there wasn’t much appetite for the creation of a link tax. The idea of the link tax is that aggregators must be forced to pay a tax for the privilege of linking to content online. This is being aggressively pushed by the big publishing industry. Canadian Heritage Minister, Steven Guilbeault, apparently started questioning his own governments approach on such issues and is calling for a link tax. It is widely recognized that such a tax would harm potential Canadian innovation online.

While it may be easy to dismiss efforts to bring in a link tax, the prospect of a link tax came one step closer to reality. Faced with pressure from French and Australian regulators, Google has said that they would go ahead and pay the link tax. The money would go towards so-called “high quality content” which can be taken to mean the big name publishers. Big publishing declared the moment a victory by declaring that the era of free news is now over – as if that is somehow a good thing or had any actual bearing on what is really going on. Still, if you believe in a free and open market, this is likely a terrible development. This is because it basically starts picking winners and losers in the world of news publishing and distribution.

The European Court of Justice, Europe’s highest court, has made what some are calling a landmark ruling in the world of privacy. The case was brought forward by Max Schrems, a privacy activist. At question was whether or not data could just be forwarded to the US as suggested by the Europe/US privacy shield laws. Schrems disputed this and said that regulators must vet the systems that handle personal information. Schrems also felt that regulators should not act as a rubber stamp before information is sent over to the US.

The European court sided with Schrems and ruled that regulators must vet the systems handling personal information. The ruling punches a major hole in the shield law. European Digital Rights applauded the ruling. “Today’s European Court of Justice ruling is a victory for privacy against mass surveillance”, says Diego Naranjo, Head of Policy at EDRi. “This is a win both for Europeans, whose personal data will be better protected, and a call for US authorities to reform the way intelligence service operate.”

The Electronic Frontier Foundation also celebrated their 30th anniversary. The digital rights organization in the US has been a major player in the fight for digital rights long before I even entered into the world of digital rights journalism. We here at Freezenet would like to congratulate the organization for being around for so long and wish them all the best for the next 30. We also hope they continue their great work at raising awareness and pushing the cause for digital rights. Well done!

Finally, a law firm from Montreal, Canada, is attempting to get the green light to file a class action lawsuit against Facebook. At issue are Facebook groups that accuse people of sexual assault. The firm says that the groups are falsely accusing some individuals for such crimes. In response, they are attempting to sue Facebook for defamation. They say that the social media giant isn’t doing enough to police such content. The class action status of the lawsuit has yet to be approved by a judge. Still, we did some digging around to try and determine where such a lawsuit might go in Canada. In the US, it would be a slam dunk win for Facebook, but Canada is a different story. The best thing we were able to find are provisions in the USMCA trade agreement that was signed in 2018 and later ratified in Canada. Although Facebook has offices in Canada, it’s also an American company. Based on our analysis, it’s possible for Facebook to say that they are not liable because of safe harbor provisions found in the agreement. Failing that, Facebook might actually have a tough time defending the lawsuit. We reached out to Michael Geist for comment on the matter, but never heard back.

This leads us to the security news section. This month, it’s the smallest section we’ve ever had. With so much other stuff going on, it was next to impossible to get to these stories. So, just because we didn’t cover hardly anything doesn’t mean hardly anything happened. Still, we think you’ll agree that the one we did cover is quite significant.

Data Viper has suffered from a data breach. In all, 8,200 databases have been allegedly stolen. You might think that one service having so many databases isn’t really plausible, nor practical. Under most circumstances, you’d be correct. In this case, it is actually plausible that this could happen. This is because Data Viper is a data breach monitoring service. It collects database leaks and breaches and allows people to scan for compromised information. That, of course, explains how so many databases were stored by the service. According to a hacker, the service was hacked and the databases were exfiltrated. Some were posted on the dark web while others quickly went up for sale on hacker sites.

Details did get somewhat murky with this one, however. On the one hand, databases started appearing that were only mentioned by DataViper. Some databases that cropped up were from companies that didn’t have a public disclosure. A couple of those companies were contacted and the response was that the companies were completely unaware that they were the victim of a leak or breach. Additionally, a hacker forum suddenly announced that the mega data leak of Verifications IO (a leak that saw 800 million accounts exposed) had finally arrived. All of that lends credibility to the hack itself.

On the other hand, Vinny Troia, manager of DataViper, had his own take on the issue. Troia says that the hackers were only able to gain access to a test server. After that, the databases from previously known leaks and hacks cropped up in an attempt to try and increase the legitimacy of the hack. This to cover up that not much was actually exfiltrated from the test server. So, there are conflicting points in this story being made here.

It is true that some of these databases are quite old. So, it’s not as though every database is new and cause for immediately fresh concern. Still, it’s very possible that new data is being compromised. This is thanks to databases that were simply floating around in the ether and not yet used by hackers. As a result, it’s not something to dismiss either. Definitely a good reminder to change your passwords, though.

Video Game Reviews

So, a very eventful month here on Freezenet. Now, let’s turn towards entertainment.

Before we jump into the video game reviews this month, we wanted to point out that we have posted another first impression video. This month, we gave the game Outlast a spin. If you’d like to see what we encountered initially in this survival horror game, you can check out the link in our transcript or check out our YouTube channel for the video.

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

First up is Gremlins 2 – The New Batch for the Game Boy. A game that has a balance tilted against you during play, though designs are otherwise fairly well realized overall. So, this game gets an decent 68%.

Next up is Rolan’s Curse for the Game Boy. Primitive item system and repeating rooms do hold this game back. Still, it has a respectable learning and difficulty curve. So, this one gets a solid 70%.

After that is Operation C for the Game Boy. Yet another difficult game from the Contra series, but it’s still a very enjoyable game anyway. It has well realized graphics and nicely converted music. So, a game that gets a great 82%.

From there, we played Burger Time Deluxe for the Game Boy. A game with charming core concepts, but you can easily have your fill of the game within an hour. On the plus side, level design has been improved in this version. So, this game gets a mediocre 60%.

Finally, we played Pac Man for the Game Boy. A faithful port to the original with added scrolling to compensate for screen space. Unfortunately, nothing much new is added which makes this a rather primitive one to play. As such, it gets an average 64%.

Music Reviews

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

Adeva – It Should Have Been Me (Def Club Mix)

Quazar – The Seven Stars

Jack U Rebels – Planet Eye

Metropolis – Time of War (A.C. Mix)

Enya – May it Be

Def Leppard – Let’s Get Rocked

The Black Crowes – Remedy

Peter Gabriel – Digging in the Dirt

… and Bon Jovi – Keep the Faith

Picks of the Month

So, that, leads us to our pick of the month. This month, our pick of the month belongs to Operation C for the Game Boy. Also, be sure to check out Enya – May it Be.

Oddities

And in other news…

The 2020 BET awards moved online due to COVID-19. As with other years, it featured an “In Memoriam” section devoted to famous people who have tragically passed away. Among the people they eulogized was Willie Lewis Brown Jr., a politician who is a former mayor of San Francisco. One slight problem with that: He’s still alive. Speculation is that they meant to eulogize the Hall of Fame Oakland Raiders cornerback Willie Brown who died at age 78. When asked for comment, the very much alive Brown said, “I’m not gonna correct them. Why correct them? I’m gonna make sure all my creditors take notice. The debt, is canceled.”

Tourism attractions have been pretty hard hit thanks to COVID-19. This is certainly true in Japan which has attractions like Tokyo Disneyland, Disney Sea, and Osaka’s Universal Studios. Officials are working with business leaders to try and figure out ways to safely re-open amusement parks. So, guidelines have been put together and released on how to safely re-open and prevent the spread of COVID-19. Many guidelines are, of course, sensible. However, one guideline has caught the attention of some people. When it comes to roller-coasters, the guidelines say, “Have guests wear masks, and urge them to refrain from shouting/screaming.” Yeah, good luck with that. On the bright side, at least Mr. Bean will finally be able to enjoy a peaceful ride on the roller-coaster.

The Canadian Internet Registry Authority has released a new study into how Canadians interact with modern technology. It’s entitled the Internet Factbook 2020. A number of findings are pretty general like how 54% of Canadians are now working at home thanks to COVID-19. Another statistic says that 53% of Canadians have ordered food online. Then you get to this statistic: 75% of Canadians have said “please” and “thank you” to their voice activated assistant. How Canadian. We are aware that we aren’t talking to real people, right?

Outro

Before we close out this month’s episode, we do have one quick announcement to make. We have posted the June wiki content patch. The patch notes point out that we have archived an additional 130 episodes of the show Corsten’s Countdown. That put us all the way up to episode 160. We should point out that we have posted a few more episodes since those patch notes. Well, significantly more episodes since then actually. Definitely feel free to check out the Wiki to see what we’ve been up to lately!

In addition to that, we have updated the Fables podcast with newer episodes. The archive now goes all the way up to episode 149. So, even more music there if you are interested. Lots of additional content is continuing to be added on a fairly regular basis. We hope you are enjoying it so far and look forward to adding even more content in the days and weeks ahead!

Also, huge shout out to Nolan for providing mixing services!

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

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

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.



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