Freezenet’s Official Podcast: July 2021: Free Speech Survives!

In the 33rd episode of the Freezenet official podcast, “Free Speech Survives!”, we take a look at the news and reviews we covered in July 2021.

Welcome to the Public version of the Freezenet official podcast for July 2021. This month’s episode is entitled “Free Speech Survives!” because Bill C-10 is seemingly destined to die on the orderpaper.

Also this month, we offer an update to the ongoing story surrounding NSO Group as well as a development in the Article 17 debate going on in Europe.

We also cover all the usual music and video game reviews as well as why you shouldn’t mount a Starlink satellite dish on the hood of your car. All this and more on this month’s podcast!

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

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

Intro

Free speech survives!

Hi, I’m your host, Drew Wilson. Welcome to episode 33 of the Freezenet official podcast for July, 2021. Here are your top 3 headlines:

The Top 3

Canadian Senate adjourns without passing speech crackdown legislation

Amazon gives NSO Group the boot after leak reveals their malware targeted journalists and activists

… and European’s disappointed as advocates fail to obtain annulment of Article 17

Top Stories

Before we get into the top stories, we would like to mention the passing of two people in the tech community. First is John McAffee. The creator of famed anti-virus software, McAffee, was found dead at the Brians 2 Penitentiary Center near Barcelona. He was 75 years old.

In addition to that, the Internet community also mourned the loss of online activist, Sherwin Siy. Siy served as vice president of the legal council at Public Knowledge. He was also the lead public policy manager at the Wikimedia Foundation. In addition to that, he was a special counsel for the Federal Communications Commission. He was 40 years old.

Now, here is the regular top stories of the month.

Canada’s free speech crisis has been narrowly averted by the slimmest of political margins. At this point, free speech advocates can breathe a sigh of relief for now. This month has had its share of crucial moments for this legislation.

This month began with us publishing a visualization of what the effects of Bill C-10 would be. This in response to the fact that it wound up being difficult to explain using words what those effects would be in practice. So, posting pretty pictures wound up being the better solution. In short, established content producers would see the benefits of that promotion. Meanwhile, smaller Canadian producers would get pushed further down the list, getting far less critical exposure. The visualizations are the result of our thorough reading of the legislation and our knowledge about how technology and Search Engine Optimization works.

The next day, we posted a list of all the MP’s that voted for or against this legislation. Generally speaking, it was a strict party line vote with Conservatives voting against the legislation. Meanwhile, the Liberals, Bloc, NDP, and Green all voted for it. Notable votes include Charlie Angus, a long time supporter of digital rights, voting against free speech and for this legislation. Another notable vote was the Green Party. We didn’t hear a whole lot from the party, but the one member that was present in Parliament voted for the legislation and against free speech. The full vote breakdown is available on our website.

Shortly after, we had another famed “Drew Wilson was right” moment. As the legislation made its way to the Senate, senators raised concerns that perfectly aligned with what we presented with our visualizations. This despite the multitude of attacks on Twitter over our accurate reporting on Bill C-10. Leo Housakos commented on the legislation, “The beneficiaries of that system will be the established well-funded media production companies with the lobbyists and lawyers to work it to their advantage – more gatekeepers – not the independent YouTube performer looking to go viral and become the next Justin Bieber or Lily Singh.”

As mentioned in the previous podcast, Bill C-10 had limited time to pass in the extreme. The next day, senators voted to move the legislation over to the senate committee for additional study. When that happened, the senate adjourned. In short, it meant that the senate did not pass Bill C-10 as the Liberal party had hoped. While some Conservatives tried to take credit for the bills failure to pass, digital rights advocates were also celebrating the demise of the legislation. Of course, many know full well that this legislation could very easily crop up again, so it represented a temporary relief that free speech will survive this latest attempted crackdown.

At the same time, Justin Trudeau said that he was “in talks” with the Senate during a press conference. What those “talks” were was unclear, but it was clear that he was unhappy that his speech crackdown legislation didn’t pass before the break.

With Bill C-10 now certain to die if an election is called, we started looking back on the legislation. In one article, we offered the three critical moments that led to the demise of Bill C-10. For us, the first critical moment was the original removal of Section 4.1. As you are well aware of, Section 4.1 would have protected the content posted by individual users. With this part of the bill erased, user generated content would be subject to regulation. That’s what originally kicked off this whole controversy in the first place. Compounding the problem is the stubborn refusal by Bill C-10 supporters to put this critical exception back into the bill.

The second critical moment was the Speaker of the House of Commons, Anthony Rota, smacking down the legislation. With lawmakers engaging in secret lawmaking and putting in “gag” orders to shut down debate, it wasn’t a huge surprise that this sparked a complaint. That complaint was heard and the Speaker ruled that the committee overstepped their authority and ordered the reprint of Bill C-10. This without the massive list of amendments that were tacked on at the last minute. That pushed the legislation on an extremely tight deadline if it hoped to be passed before the Summer break.

The final nail in the coffin was the Heritage Minister “introducing” the bill into the Senate before it made it into the House of Commons. The effort to, again, circumvent democracy was met with annoyance from Senators who called the move “insulting”. Annoying the senators while attempting to pass the law is obviously not going to help the cause of passing Bill C-10. Now, here we are into the Summer break with Bill C-10 not passed.

Senator Michael MacDonald commented in the aftermath. He said that his office is swamped with e-mails from people concerned about what this legislation means for online free speech in Canada. He says that those objecting to the law come from all walks of life. He further commented, “I have a lot of problems with a handful of elites deciding what you can see and what you can read. We already have laws on objectionable content.”

While Bill C-10 is all but dead and lawmakers adjourned for the Summer, you might think that this is completely the end of the story for now. As it turns out, the CRTC has been itching to enforce Bill C-10. So, they are now pushing to enforce parts of the legislation by demanding that they should be allowed to collect data on users. The push has sparked serious questions about whether the CRTC even has the authority to do so.

As Bill C-10 could potentially become a political issue during the next possible election, the CBC decided to run a story downplaying the free speech concerns in Bill C-10. After what had to have been some extensive searching, they found three podcasters who said that they aren’t concerned about the free speech issues. Instead, they were generally asking if they are getting money from the funding proposed in the legislation. After laughing for hours at that, we offered the obvious answer. That is, “no, you won’t see a dime from that. The money is destined for the legacy corporations with deep pockets.”

Later on, we found out what Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, was aiming for when he said that he was “in talks” with the Senate. As it turns out, he was hoping for a Summer session. The report focused almost exclusively on the Conversion Therapy ban legislation. With C-10 in the Senate committee, it seemed unlikely that a Summer session would get Bill C-10 passed. Still, it did make it through numerous steps it shouldn’t have, so we couldn’t be sure of that.

It’s worth noting that this bill was, in fact, dangerously close to becoming law. All it really had to do was pass in the Senate. After that, the law could then be used to start cracking down on free speech. So, this was a narrow escape for online free speech.

While Bill C-10 certainly made the news, military grade malware vendor, NSO Group, was making news as well. The Israel based company has long been accused of selling their spyware to third world country governments. Those governments, in turn, use that spyware to crack down on journalists and activists working in that country. A major leak has shown that the effects of the Pegasus malware is much more widespread than previously thought. The leak suggests that as many as 50,000 people were potential victims of the malware.

In response, Amazon said that it has shut down accounts associated with NSO Group. It’s unclear how much damage that move alone does to the organization, but amazon does offer numerous services to keep web infrastructure going.

As information about the leak spread, more details began to emerge about who were potential targets. Among those named as possible targets were French President, Emmanuel Macron and members of the Mexican president’s inner circle. This indicates that it isn’t just journalists and activists that were potentially targeted.

NSO Group issued a response to all of this. In their statement, they said that their malware only goes after terrorists and criminals. In addition to that, they said that they have no way of knowing who are the victims of their malware, and, thus, deny that a list could possibly be leaked. At the same time, they said that they also know full well that their malware wasn’t used to target Jamal Khashoggi or any members of his family. As we noted, there is a bit of a contradiction in stating that they don’t know who the victims of their malware are, yet they can also confirm who it didn’t target.

Finally, we got an update on one of the long running stories surrounding Article 17 – formerly Article 13. The European law is also known as the censorship machines or the upload filter. Essentially, it requires platforms to implement automatic filters to take down allegedly infringing content. Initially, the proposed law would only rely on automated processes and not human intervention.

That aspect of the law may be changing. A challenge to the law was made by Poland. So, there were hopes that a full annulment of the law could be achieved. Sadly, the Advocate General is not recommending a full annulment of the law as free speech advocates were desperately hoping. While it was a huge setback for free speech, the Advocate General also made some interesting recommendations. Instead of a filter that automatically removes anything perceived as infringement, the recommendation is that the law be narrowed to a 1 to 1 copy to trigger the filters. It’s worth pointing out that this is a recommendation by the Advocate General, not a final ruling. So, while a loss for free speech, there is a silver lining to this as well.

Definitely an interesting array of stories this month. That only continues with the other stories making news this month.

Other Stories Making News

The European privacy law known as the GDPR is celebrating its third year anniversary. The General Data Protection Regulation ushered in a new era of respect for personal information. In the years since, it has seen hundreds of thousands of complaints and billions of Euro’s in fines handed out. Parts of the debate surrounding the law these days involves questions over whether the fines are enough. Another question is if some jurisdictions, like Ireland, are even doing a good enough job keeping up with the workload. As we pointed out in our article, Canadian’s can only really look on in envy. This is because Canada hasn’t even really got much of a start putting in place laws that fines companies for misusing people’s personal information. The only recourse in the books is a strongly worded letter from privacy commissioners.

A photo snapped and shared on various sites and platforms is sparking controversy. It shows the head of the CRTC meeting with a Bell executive – a company the CRTC is supposedly regulating – over beer. Reportedly, the picture was taken just before the CRTC gave a favourable ruling that could see Internet and cell phone bill rates skyrocket. The decision was described as one of the most anti-consumer decisions ever. Critics argue that this photo is just further proof of regulatory capture.

With Canada seemingly destined to head into an election in the next few months, the privacy reform bill seems destined to die on the order paper. As a result, the province of Ontario is now moving ahead with their own privacy reform bill. One of the proposed features is that violators of privacy laws would get hit with a fine of 3% of annual turnover or $10 million, whichever is greater. For those keeping track, this is 1% lower than Europe’s GDPR law which is set at 4% annual turnover. We did note, based on what we read, that there is no requirement to report an incident unlike the GDPR. Still, it highlights the need for these laws. Unfortunately, the current Canadian government seems unmotivated to move forward with privacy reform.

Ubisoft made news this month after a badly made decision. The company decided to turn off the DRM server for the game Might and Magic X: Legacy. Because of the decision, players are now only able to play the first act in the game – the designated demo for the game. In all, there are 4 acts in the whole game and a fifth act if you got the widely panned DLC.

For long time listeners, you might recall that we actually previewed the game a while back in one of our first impression video’s. We did play through this game before the servers got shut down. For those upset that they might not actually get the chance to play it, we can safely say that, of the 10 games in the whole series, Legacy is, for us, the third worst game in the series.

Still, if you have a pirated version of the game, you are currently free to keep playing the single player game. For those who legally paid for the game, sorry, but you are out of luck now. Yet another example over multiple decades that shows that DRM rewards the pirates and punishes the legal customer.

While Ubisoft has the typical DRM fiasco on its hands, they weren’t the only ones. Capcom, makers of Resident Evil Village, also had their own issues with DRM as well. Since the launch, players have been unable to figure out why the game stuttered in the PC version. It typically happens when enemies appear. The first place to look, turning down the graphics settings, didn’t work. As it turns out, scene cracking group, Empress, found the problem. With the combination of Denuvo’s DRM and their own DRM, the game starts to lag. However, when the DRM is removed – as was the case with the version Empress released – all PC stuttering issues vanished. Many developers, pirates, and paying customers agreed that this was unacceptable. As a result, they called on Capcom to fix these DRM issues.

US President, Joe Biden, signed an executive order calling for the restoration of network neutrality. The Trump administration’s FCC gutted the laws during their administration’s tenure through chairman Ajit Pai. Lawsuits were filed in various states to keep the concept of network neutrality alive. For the most part, that succeeded. Now, with Biden pushing to restore those laws, there is a chance that damage done by removing these laws will be minimal. Of course, the fight isn’t over because Biden still has to nominate one more FCC commissioner to make this all happen. Otherwise, the FCC will still be in a 2 vs 2 deadlock. Still, it is a step in the right direction.

Back in Canada, an RBC study is highlighting the problems with the digital divide in Canada. The study narrowed in on indigenous communities. They found that indigenous people start businesses 9 times more than non-indigenous people. The problem is that only 24% of indigenous communities have access to high speed Internet. Obviously, not only is the Internet an incredibly useful thing during the pandemic, but is also frequently cited as the way of the future. While there is a lot more details in this study, a conclusion is that if more indigenous communities are finally granted access to high speed Internet, there is going to be an increase in entrepreneurship which, in turn, is going to help the overall economy. Unfortunately, while the Canadian government talks a big game about connecting rural and indigenous communities, we haven’t really seen much actual movement on this file. A missed economic opportunity to be sure.

While Joe Biden was working on restoring network neutrality, the news wasn’t all rosy. News surfaced that says that he intends on “reviewing” Section 230. As long time listeners know, Section 230 was a big target by the Trump administration. Republican’s felt that because they didn’t have the right to reach on social media, they wanted to punish those platforms by repealing Section 230. Section 230, obviously, has nothing to do with Trump getting banned from Twitter, but the lack of anything sensible in this approach wasn’t going to stop them. The election, of course, had different plans.

Still, if you thought that Democrats wouldn’t be crazy enough to try and attack Section 230, you’d be sorely mistaken. For them, they want to effectively repeal the law because social media platforms are accused of allowing misinformation to spread. So, they want to hive off another protection granted through Section 230 supposedly to stop that misinformation from spreading. Again, Section 230 has nothing to do with this, but that’s their big plan anyway. Biden’s review is seen as, at least, the second swipe at Section 230 after the SAFE TECH Act. That bill would see websites not related to the spread of misinformation be forced to shut down.

Tech opinion website, Techdirt, received another lawsuit this month. This time, it’s from lawyer Larry Klayman. At issue was an article discussing Klayman’s 90 day suspension as well as events that led up to that moment. In response, Klayman filed the suit claiming defamation. While we didn’t get access to the lawsuit, we did get a chance to check out the legal response Techdirt filed in their defence. Since the lawsuit was filed in Florida, the response highlighted why the article wasn’t defamation. It references Florida’s anti-SLAPP laws among other things. They then asked the judge to have the case dismissed.

So, definitely a lot happening this month. Now, let’s talk about entertainment.

Video Game Reviews

Before we talk about the video games we reviewed, we wanted to talk about the first impression video’s we posted this month.

For this month’s Steam game, we played the RPG game, Arx Fatalis. What we didn’t know when we bought it was that this is supposed to be a sequel to Ultima Underworld, but there was a problem securing the rights. So, definitely an interesting factoid going into this video. You can check out the video directly on our site or via YouTube.

For this months Playstation 3 game, we decided to try LittleBigPlanet 2. This is an interesting followup to our video we did on LittleBigPlanet. You can also check out the video directly on our site or via YouTube.

As always, you can subscribe to our YouTube channel and turn on notifications to get realtime updates on what video’s we’ve posted.

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

We kicked things off this month with Paperboy for the Game Boy Color. Better use of screen space and the split in difficulty adds a lot of value to the game. So, this one gets a great 80%.

After that, we tried Pac-Man: Special Color Edition for the Game Boy Color. Difficulty spikes and repetitive game means that this one falls flat on execution. So, this one gets a mediocre 65%.

After that, we tried Midway Presents Arcade Hits: Joust / Defender for the Game Boy Color. A nice throwback to players already familiar with these games, but not a lot to go on if you are new to these games. This one falls flat with a 57%.

Next, we played Scrabble for the Game Boy Color. At its core, it’s a solid game, but lack of anything innovative holds this game back. So, this one gets a bland 64%.

Finally, we tried Pong: The Next Level for the Game Boy Color. An interesting more modern twist to a classic. With the game sporting new and addicting features, this one wound up scoring a surprisingly high 80%.

Music Reviews

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

Superchunk – Mower

Boy Krazy – That’s What Love Can Do

The God Machine – Home

Goo Goo Dolls – We Are the Normal

Darude – My Game

The Cranberries – Dreams

Living Colour – Leave it Alone

… and Pink Floyd – Keep Talking

Picks of the Month

So, that leads us to our pick of the month. This month, our pick of the month belongs to Paperboy for the Game Boy Color. Also, be sure to check out Darude – My Game and Pong: The Next Level for the Game Boy Color.

Oddities

And in other news

Wifi in your vehicle can be a luxury for some. The problem is, not all vehicles can allow you connect to the Internet like that. The good news is that it is getting increasingly easy to get access to the Internet via Elon Musks Starlink project. So, one California driver decided to put two and two together and mount the satellite dish on his car. Apparently, he used it for his online business. Highway patrol, however, were less than impressed with the installation of the dish. He apparently mounted it on the hood of his Toyota Prius. After pulling the vehicle over, the driver was asked if the dish obstructed his view while driving. His response? “Only when I make right turns”

Pot holes are a definite nuisance. They damage tires, are unsightly, and are often a safety hazard. Sometimes, those holes get repaired relatively quickly, but for many others, it takes a while for road repair crews to get to. One pot hole in Jackson, Mississippi apparently filled the width of a whole lane. Construction barrels were placed around the pot hole to alert drivers of the hole. It’s unclear how long that pot hole was there, but apparently long enough to grow tomatoes. Pictures accompanying the story showed the tomatoes growing in the pot hole complete with the round edible food. The report notes that sewage is also nearby and, therefore, considers the tomatoes not edible. … and here I thought people liked community gardens.

Let’s face it, we all have had bad days. Sometimes, bad days are worse than others. Few, however, can match what happened to one unfortunate soul in Garner, North Carolina. The unfortunate person apparently suffered from a medical emergency. So, an ambulance was called to pick the person up and transport that person to the hospital. While en-rout to the hospital, the ambulance suddenly caught fire. The report says that the fire originated from the engine compartment, so, possibly an engine fire. Luckily, another ambulance was nearby, so the patient was transferred to the other ambulance and transported to the hospital. Man, I wouldn’t want to see the engine fire fee tacked on to that medical bill.

Outro

Before we close out this month’s episode, we got one quick announcement to make. This month, we published the May and June Wiki content patch. Essentially, we updated the shows for Fables, Resonation, Future Sound of Egypt, Random Movement Podcast, and the V Recordings Podcast. So, we are slowly, but surely, getting more content added to the Wiki. Hopefully, we can add more content next month.

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

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

…and that’s this months episode for July, 2021. I’m Drew Wilson for Freezenet. Be sure to check out our website at freezenet.ca for all the latest in news and reviews. You can also follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr. Thank you for listening and see you next month.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.



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