Freezenet’s Official Podcast: November 2021: Censor Wars: Episode 3: Revenge of the Liberals

In the 37th episode of the Freezenet official podcast, “Censor Wars: Episode 3: Revenge of the Liberals”, we take a look at the news and reviews we covered in November 2021.

Welcome to the Public version of the Freezenet official podcast for November 2021. This month’s episode is entitled “Censor Wars: Episode 3: Revenge of the Liberals” over the renewed effort for the Canadian Liberal government to push through their war on the open Internet.

Also this month, we cover the recent Denuvo DRM scandals and the twin threats to the Internet from both the UK and Europe. This is the Online Safety Bill and the Digital Services Act reforms respectively.

In addition to this, we cover all the usual music and video game reviews. We even cover why you shouldn’t use your fists to punch your way to a brand new 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 to this months podcast:

Intro

Censor Wars: Episode 3: Revenge of the Liberals

Hi, I’m your host, Drew Wilson.  Welcome to episode 37 of the Freezenet official podcast for November, 2021.  Here are your top 3 headlines:

The Top 3

Canada’s War on the Open Internet Set to Go Full Steam Ahead

Denuvo DRM Continues to Ruin the Legal Customers Experience.  In Response, Developers are Dropping the DRM from Their Games

… and Digital Rights Observers Sound the Alarm Over Changes to Europes Digital Services Act and the Forthcoming UK Online Safety Bill

Top Stories

There has been a lull in developments over the looming free speech crisis in Canada.  While this represented a temporary relief for Canadian’s, that relief might be soon coming to an end.  There have been some developments in this major story that suggests that things are moving forward again.

Previously, we brought you news that the Canadian election saw Bill C-10 die on the orderpaper.  The development was met with a huge sigh of relief from digital rights observers.  Many consider the legislation a potential disaster for free speech.

This month, things started moving ahead with the appointment of Pablo Rodriguez.  He is going to be the new Canadian Heritage Minister.  The development meant that Steven Guilbeault, who effectively fumbled everything about the portfolio from beginning to end, is finally gone.  We did note that Guilbeault was actually promoted to be the Environment Minister, so we did express out sympathies to the environmental movement and hope that things might actually be different for them.

With Rodriguez now the Heritage Minister, some digital rights observers thought that a new face means a new policy direction.  We, of course, didn’t share that sentiment given how heavily Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pushed for this Internet crackdown in the first place.  With the Liberals promising this full crackdown within 100 days of taking office, we had little reason to believe that the policy direction would suddenly turn on a dime like that.

Just two days later, we were proven correct on our assessment.  Rodriguez spoke to the media and called the speech regulation bill, Bill C-10, “fundamental“.  He was quoted as saying:

“We promised to bring in some bills very quickly”

“C-10 is one of them. Why? Because it is fundamental.”

“We made many promises to table important bills in the first 100 days and that includes the broadcasting bill”

“We need that bill. We have to modernize it.”

For us, this confirmed that the governments direction wasn’t actually going to change.  Still, some continued to hold out hope that maybe these comments were just a blip on the radar.

As that was happening, another submission was published from the online harms consultation.  This time, Google has added its voice to the debate.  Like almost every other submission we found to date, the response to Canada’s online harms plans was negative.  Among the recommendations made by Google are, “The types of providers and services that are in and out of scope must be clearly identified, recognising the distinct nature of different types of services and user interactivity, differing abilities to moderate content, and the impact on access to information.”

They also said, “The obligation to include demographic data in regular reports to the DSC is impractical and may undermine user privacy.”

The views Google had are definitely shared by many others who participated in the consultation.  Still, it was interesting to see Google lending their voice to this process as well.

There was also a development on the Canadian link tax front.   Carleton University professor, Dwayne Winseck, made some interesting findings about PostMedia.  The large journalism organization received $10.8 million in federal subsidies to support journalism.  In addition to that, the organization also received an additional $40.3 million in Emergency Wage Subsidies.  On top of that, the organization received an additional $1 million from the Quebec government’s subsidy program for news media.  In all, that totals roughly $52 million in subsidies.

In spite of this, they laid off 50 people.  They also slashed the salaries of an additional 70 journalists and staffers by 5-30% for those making less than $60,000 per year.  They also closed 15 community newspapers on top of it all.

The organization apparently isn’t hemorrhaging cash either.  They apparently turned a profit of $190.7 million as well.  This paints a very different picture for organizations that are saying that they risk going under because large “tech giants” are making all that money instead of journalism outlets.  Definitely something to note in the broader link tax debate.

Later on, a story cropped up out of nowhere regarding the online harms proposal.  An organization that calls itself the Coalition to Combat Online Hate issued an open letter.  They are calling for the government to act and swiftly pass the online harms legislation.  The organization said that they are worried that minor issues about wording and scope of the legislation threatens to delay it.  Therefore, they argue that they’d rather see the current iteration pass because it’s better than nothing.

The letter itself is quite short and very skimpy on details about the legislation itself.  Instead, it focused on how people are facing a barrage of online hate.  The list of organizations that signed on to this is actually fairly short as well.

We ended up having a lot of questions about this development.  While digging, we found out that the organization was formed in the Spring of 2020.  That, of course, could very easily explain why we’ve never heard of it before.  While the news article suggests that this open letter is broadly supported by Jewish, Muslim, Sikh, Indigenous and Black organizations, this didn’t add up at all given what we saw in the consultation.

We then referred to the submission posted by a much larger and much broader list of anti-racism groups and experts. Their position was, of course, very different.  They argued that the online harms proposal could lead to an increase of over-policing and over surveillance of racialized communities.  They also contend that the proposed law could lead to the takedown of legal content thanks to the 24 hour time window afforded to websites.  This is just a very small sample of a much larger list of concerns they had.

We contacted the organization that posted their submission which contained criticisms of the online harms proposal and are currently waiting for a response.  Still, we found the suggestion that racialized communities are fully and unanimously supportive of the online harms proposal to be, well, not true.

Then, the big day came for the Canadian government.  The government had their Speech from the Throne.  The Throne Speech lays out the general vision for the Canadian government – specifically the Liberal Party.  The speech said, “To support Canadian culture and creative industries, the Government will also reintroduce legislation to reform the Broadcasting Act and ensure web giants pay their fair share for the creation and promotion of Canadian content.”

This ultimately confirmed that Bill C-10 is definitely coming back.

The speech also said this: “This is the moment to rebuild for everyone. The Government will continue to invest in the empowerment of Black and racialized Canadians, and Indigenous Peoples. It will also continue to fight harmful content online, and stand up for LGBTQ2 communities while completing the ban on conversion therapy.”

That ultimately confirmed that the Online Harms proposal is also going to be coming as well.

We looked back at our predictions for this government.  Based on the Throne Speech, we got 6 out of 7 predictions right.

Our predictions were: the return of speech regulation (correct), the return of online harms (correct), the return of link taxes (surprising many, this didn’t make an appearance in the speech), no increase in competition in the Wireless and Internet Carrier industry (correct), no lowering cell phone and Internet bills (correct), no real privacy reform (correct), no increased broadband access in rural and indigenous communities (correct), and the shelving of the so-called digital charter (correct).

This is not to say link taxes won’t make a return at a later time, but as far as the Throne Speech is concerned, that was the only prediction we seemingly got wrong.  Still, 6 out of 7 predictions is still really really good as far as I’m concerned.  One thing is for sure, this is going to be one heck of a bumpy ride for digital rights.  That’s putting it mildly.

DRM made headlines this month thanks to the much hated company, Denuvo.  As many have long known, Digital Rights Management has long been considered modern day snake oil.  It promises to cure many problems, yet it solves nothing at all.  To make matters worse, it actually causes more problems in the process.

This month, owners of computers that use Intel’s Alder Lake chips found a nasty surprise.  The Denuvo DRM mistakenly considers the chipset to be two different PCs.  Because it thinks players are trying to run the same license on two different computers, the DRM locked legitimate customers out of their games.  The number of games this impacted totals 51 in all.  For critics, it’s yet another example of how DRM rewards the pirates and punishes the legal customer.

Shortly after that incident surfaced, Denuvo seemingly let a domain expire.  That domain was tied to a server that manages their DRMed games.  After the domain expired, legal gamers were locked out of their games for an entire weekend.  Denuvo wouldn’t confirm it was the result of a domain expiring, but did admit that it was a domain name issue.  Services have since been restored.

As that was happening, game developers were dropping Denuvo DRM from their games.  EA, the developers for Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order decided to remove the Denuvo DRM from their game.  The game ended up being the latest one to have Denuvo officially removed.

The fallout for Denuvo then continued after developers added two more games to the list of games that had Denuvo DRM officially removed.  Those games were Injustice 2 and Soulcalibur VI.

Freezenet is not aware of any DRM protected game that was never cracked.

Finally, digital rights observers and organizations are sounding the alarm over developments in both the UK and Europe.  In Europe, amendments are being proposed to the Digital Services Act.  One amendment that is being proposed is that content must be blocked or taken down within 30 minutes for copyright related reasons.  Many are voicing concerns as this would effectively mandate automated takedowns through faulty filtering technology.  As a result, legal content might get taken down in the process.

The amendments also consider the concept of so-called “trusted flaggers” where members of the copyright industry would be classified as “trusted”.  The fear is that those members would resort to using faulty filtering systems that are already well known to be error-prone.  In addition, it would also add liability to website owners for the users activities.  Websites like Wikipedia, GitHub, and Dropbox are examples of websites that would actually become liable for the users actions.

To make matters even worse, amendments are being proposed that would compel websites like Facebook and Google to host links to news organizations content.  The idea is being billed as a “license to print money” for Big Publishing.  This is because laws are already in place demanding that these same websites pay a license fee for linking to news articles.  Some fear that this requirement to host links to news articles would open the door to misinformation, making it harder to combat disinformation campaigns as a result.

In response, the Wikimedia foundation is calling for changes to these amendments, saying, in part, “We urge policymakers to think about how new rules can help reshape our digital spaces so that collaborative platforms like ours are no longer the exception. Regulation should empower people to take control of their digital public spaces, instead of confining them to act as passive receivers of content moderation practices. We need policy and legal frameworks that enable and empower citizens to shape the Internet’s future, rather than forcing platforms to exclude them further.”

Also, eBay has called on its sellers to fight the new changes, saying that listings could be blocked without reason.  They also say that this would create a bottleneck for new listings thanks to these new regulations.  They explain that the new rules could become more bureaucratic and that it could not only be much slower, but also put seller privacy at risk.

While Canada is seemingly set for a debate about so-called “online harms”, the UK is also seemingly heading for a very similar debate across the pond.  There’s a forthcoming piece of legislation in Britain known as the “Online Safety Bill“.  Like Canada’s online harms proposal, the Online Safety Bill is being blasted as a threat to freedom of expression.  UK digital rights organization, Open Rights Group, said, “For starters, the appointment of a state speech regulator – appointed and directed by government – will create a sprawling bureaucracy of speech police. The Home Office and the DCMS will direct what speech must be removed, filtered and monitored.”

They further commented, “For another thing, the Bill’s provisions to block websites, apps, or services which refuse to cooperate with the speech regulator’s orders could put household names like Wikipedia, Reddit and Tumblr in the cross-hairs.”

One news organization noted that the bill also contains provisions that could add a 2 year prison sentence for online trolls.  The idea is that it would punish those who cause “psychological injury” from someone elses comments.  It’s unclear at this time when this bill is going to be tabled.

Definitely a rather scary month to say the least.  What else is happening?  Well, let’s take a look at some of the other stories making news this month.

Other Stories Making News

The Electronic Frontier Foundation filed a legal brief, asking the courts to block the Texas Moderation Ban law.  The law would make it illegal to ban people based on alleged “political viewpoints”.  The Electronic Frontier Foundation says, “Our brief, siding with the plaintiffs, explains that the law forces popular online platforms to publish speech they don’t agree with or don’t want to share with their users. Its broad restrictions would destroy many online communities that rely on moderation and curation. Platforms and users may not want to see certain kinds of content and speech that is legal but still offensive or irrelevant to them. They have the right under the First Amendment to curate, edit, and block everything from harassment to opposing political viewpoints.”

Facebook head, Mark Zuckerberg, announced that Facebook will be changing it’s name to Meta.  Meta would become a new parent company for all the properties owned by Facebook.  The development is noted for being similar to Google’s move a while back to create parent company, Alphabet.  It’s unclear how much impact the move will have over the current legal problems Facebook is seeing these days.

Large media outlets are still trying to make the case for dismantling the critical Section 230 law.  An article on Yahoo! News suggested that tech critics are all for dismantling Section 230, though piece by piece might be the best way to go.  We point out that tech critics are actually saying to leave Section 230 alone as the law is not problematic in the first place.  Bloomberg, meanwhile, made the argument that, in the absence of Section 230, large tech giants would simply shield themselves by terms of service conditions.  We point out that, at best, this is a very weak legal argument as there is plenty of ways where contract law does not override the rule of law.  This is the latest seemingly failed attempt by the media to push the idea of scrapping Section 230.

The US Copyright Office has added some narrow exemptions to the archaic DMCA copyright laws.  An exception has been added to permit people to legally repair a game console.  The exception is narrow, however, because it only permits the repair of the optical drive.  The copyright lobby made the asinine argument that permitting people to fix their optical drives would lead to massive copyright infringement.  The office didn’t buy that argument.  Digital rights advocates hailed this as a small victory, however, tech observers point out that game consoles can fail in many other ways as well.  This means that the market for fixing old equipment is still a grey one.

Facebook announced that it is shutting down their facial recognition program.  As a result, they said that they are deleting roughly 1 billion profiles as a result.  Facebook says that they will no longer automatically recognize faces in photographs uploaded to their site.  In other news, Facebook had a facial recognition program in the first place.

In a more upbeat news story, famed YouTuber’s, Mr. Beast and Mark Rober, have collaborated to create the TeamSeas project.  The project is a follow-up to the TeamTrees initiative.  The idea is that for every dollar donated to the project, one pound of trash will get removed from the ocean.  The goal is to remove 30 million pounds of garbage before the end of the year.  According to the Teamseas.org website, over 16 and a half million pounds of garbage was removed so far.  Other Internet stars have joined the cause.

The Newfoundland healthcare system suffered from a major hack.  The hack took down multiple medical facilities in the process.  While the media was talking about how this is a highly severe event, we pointed out that this is actually a wake-up call for the Canadian government to push through privacy reform laws.  Unfortunately, the Canadian government still has expressed little interest in updating Canadian privacy laws.

In a follow-up article, a new survey suggests that only 36% of Canadian businesses even know where data is coming from and where it is going.  The lack of interest on the executive level could very easily stem from the fact that the laws around data is incredibly lax in the first place.  While the advisory company behind the survey suggests that privacy reform is coming, the evidence points to the fact that the Canadian government actually doesn’t seem to care about people’s personal information these days.

While the Google News Showcase seemingly muted the debate surrounding link taxes for a while, grumblings among Big Publisher executives from around the world could threaten to revive the debate.  London-based publishing organization, Press Gazette, says that large outlets are complaining that they arn’t getting enough money for getting free Internet traffic from Google.  Some of the complaints is that little traffic is coming in from Showcase and that the money flowing in isn’t enough in their view.  As a result, this raises the prospect that Big Publishing could soon, once again, bite the hand that feeds it by demanding more from Google.

Video Game Reviews

So, now that you got a fresh taste of the digital world burning, let’s cool things down by talking about 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 months Steam game, we checked out the game Sacred 2: Fallen Angel Gold Edition.  This is, of course, the sequel to the game Sacred Gold which we checked out earlier.  You can check out what we first saw directly on our site or via YouTube.

We then followed that up with the Playstation 3 game, Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune.  You can 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, we checked out Golden Axe for the Sega Genesis.  A game with somewhat repetitive play, but features some nice variety.  So, this one gets a very solid 72%.

After that, we tried Super Thunder Blade for the Sega Genesis.  A short and difficult game with little in the way of features.  So, this one gets a mediocre 58%.

From there, we tried Contra: Hard Corps for the Sega Genesis.  A crippling difficulty that will get you to constantly see a Game Over screen.  Still, the weapons system is improved here.  This one gets an average 62%.

Finally, we tried Sonic the Hedgehog 3 for the Sega Genesis.  A game that depends on players having played previous instalments.  There was also a part I just couldn’t seem to get past at all.  Still, this one does sport some really good graphics, so we gave this one a 74%.

Music Reviews

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

Green Day – When I Come Around

Marillion – The Great Escape

Cake – Rock ‘N’ Roll Lifestyle

Therapy? – Die Laughing

Jawbox – Savory

Beastie Boys – Cookie Puss

Richard Marx – Now and Forever

… and finally, Stratovarius – Dreamspace

Picks of the Month

So, that leads us to our pick of the month.  This month, our pick of the month belongs to Green Day – When I Come Around.

Oddities

And in other news

Apparently, Canadian made bridges are very well built.  We found that out after a dump truck driver decided to take a nice long drive down Highway 417 in Ottawa.  While on the road, he apparently left the dump box in the up position.  The driver crashed into a bride on the highway.  The impact was so severe, it ripped the box clean off of the truck.  Bridge 1, Dump Truck 0.

A municipality in Denmark was reportedly spending $150,000 a year for a bulldozer.  The idea is that the bulldozer would go through the local beaches and clean up all the trash and seaweed left behind.  This happened about twice a week.  The problem was that the bulldozer would then take everything it collected and just dump it all staight back into the ocean.  One expert described this as “completely idiotic”.  I can’t imagine why.  I mean, it’s not like the ocean would just push that garbage back onto the beach, right?  Right?

A Washington driver was involved in a hit and run.  Apparently, he didn’t want to get caught with that hit and run.  So, he pulled over and decided to conduct some quick car repairs to hide the fact that he was involved.  His method might not be one that would be recommended by mechanics, however.  He decided to use his fists and punch his way to a brand new car.  Witnesses alerted police of the suspicious activity and he was subsequently caught.  He was later placed in a local jail.  I don’t know about you, but for me, the idea of punching solid metal repeatedly sounds downright painful.

Outro

Before we close out this month’s podcast, we got one quick announcement to make.  This month, we released the October wiki content patch.  This month, we managed to get a huge chunk of the Future Sound of Egypt 400 episode completed.  While this alone doesn’t add much in the way of new pages, it does add a whole lot in the way of content.  We’ve also added the latest episodes for The Future Sound of Egypt, Resonation, Fables, and the V Recordings Podcast.  No new episode for the Random Movement Podcast, so that section remains the same.  We hope you enjoy the added content and look forward to adding even more in the future.

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 November, 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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