Freezenet’s Official Podcast: October 2020: Breaking the Net

In the 24th episode of the Freezenet official podcast, “Breaking the Net”, we take a look at the news and reviews we covered for October.

Welcome to the public version of episode 24 of the Freezenet official podcast for October, 2020. This month’s episode is entitled “Breaking the Net” thanks to a number of stories that have surfaced this month.

This month, we cover the judge putting a halt to the TikTok ban. In addition to this, we cover the FCC’s efforts to gut Section 230. Also in our coverage is the Justice Departments anti-trust lawsuit against Google.

In addition to this, we cover all the usual music and video game reviews. We even cover what happens when you pose as your brother not knowing that he happens to be a wanted criminal. 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

Breaking the Net

Hi, I’m your host, Drew Wilson. Welcome to episode 24 of the Freezenet official podcast for October, 2020. Here are your top 3 headlines:

The Top 3

Judge blocks the TikTok ban and holds hearings after the election

The FCC lays out why it feels it can kill Section 230 and further cripple the Internet

… and the Department of Justice sues Google citing anti-trust violations

Top Stories

We begin this podcast with the continuing saga of Trump vs TikTok. As we reported in earlier podcasts, Trump has been trying to ban TikTok for some time. He is using the excuse of national security in order to carry through with the ban. While he did give preliminary approval over the current TikTok Oracle Walmart deal, there’s still plenty of uncertainty about where things will end up with the social media platform. This month, a judge has effectively added some stability to things. This is because he has granted an injunction against the TikTok ban. The judge is citing serious concerns about free speech as part of the reason why the injunction was granted.

As that was happening, confusion about the TikTok Oracle Walmart deal appeared. Trump commented that the deal includes a $5 billion fund as part of the deal. He said that the money is supposed to go to a so-called real history education project. Bytedance responded to the comments saying that they are unaware of a $5 billion education fund in the first place. After inquiries were sent, people familiar with the deal said that there has been no discussion about the fund. As a result, there is serious doubts on whether the fund even exists at all.

From there, treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, added several comments about the deal. During an interview, he commented on what TikTok had to do to obtain final approval. The comments include the following: “All of the code will have to be in the United States. Oracle will be responsible for rebuilding the code, sanitizing the code, making sure it’s safe in their cloud, and …it’ll satisfy all of our requirements”

Later on, the judge that granted the injunction against the TikTok ban set a date for the hearing. The judge said that hearings about the TikTok ban will take place on November 4th. This is quite interesting because the US elections are set to take place on November 3rd. So, this is set to take place a day after the elections.

After that, TikTok submitted a court document saying that they want to correct the record on a few things. Chief security officer for TikTok, Roland Cloutier, says that the Trump administration has made several mischaracterizations about how TikTok operates. The main point he made is that TikTok servers are separate from Bytedance already. He said that the software stack comprising TikTok is “entirely separate” from Bytedance. Cloutier also disputes the assertion that Alibaba has access to the servers in the first place. Cloutier explains that, although some servers are located at a facility owned by China Unicom Americas, they only provide the space for the servers. TikTok servers are under lock and key and cannot be accessed by the company itself. Even if access was gained, the data is encrypted anyway.

Moving on to our next big story, the Federal Communications Commission appears to be moving ahead with efforts to kill section 230. This is in response to a Trump executive order attempting to dismantle the legal protection. In a nutshell, Section 230 provides some legal immunity to online platforms. If a user posts something illegal on a platform, the platform itself is not automatically liable for the content. Instead, the platform has to take reasonable measures to take the content down after receiving a complaint. This has been a major legal pillar that protects online free speech.

After Twitter flagged a tweet by Donald Trump over concerns of spreading false information, Trump responded the very next day with his executive order. Trump cited unfounded claims that social media has an anti-conservative bias. The executive order is part of Trump’s plan to “hit back hard” against social media. Ironically, if Trump is successful, then platforms would bring in even more censorship thanks to a lack of the legal protection.

Some people watching things closely commented that they will wait to see how the FCC reacts to the executive order. After a considerable wait, the FCC issued comments saying that they have the legal authority to gut the law. This, at the very least, signals that they are moving ahead at the behest of the president. The argument is that the FCC has legal authority to regulate Internet companies. This is a direct contradiction to the reasoning behind killing network neutrality in 2017. In making that decision, the FCC said it can’t regulate Internet companies. Many pointed out that this is a major flip flop on the FCC’s part solely to appease the president. Some observers blasted the FCC for hypocrisy on the subject.

The US Justice Department is filing a lawsuit against Google for alleged anti-trust violations. The lawsuit alleges that Google has an overwhelming advantage in the market that harms competition and consumers. Part of the reasoning is that Google is the default search engine for many devices and applications. Those devices and applications are also locked to that search engine, preventing competition. We looked into those claims and, although Google is the default search engine for a number of devices and browsers, it is possible to change the chosen search engine on many. We looked at FireFox, Microsoft Edge, Android and iPhone devices.

For those who hoped that “big tech” would finally be reigned in, the lawsuit is a huge disappointment. Some even call this a missed opportunity. Because the case against Google is so weak, some fear that it will be even harder to propose new anti-trust lawsuits against these companies. Many are expecting Google to beat this particular lawsuit.

Certainly a lot of interesting legal news happening lately. So, let’s take a look at some of the other stories making news this month.

Other Stories Making News

One of the big stories last month was Facebook threatening to leave Europe over data transfer laws. This month, we have a followup that suggests that Facebook is walking back those comments. Last month, in court documents, Facebook made the following comments: “In the event [Facebook] were subject to a complete suspension of the transfer of users’ data to the US, as appear to be what the DPC proposes, it is not clear to [Facebook] how, in those circumstances, it could continue to provide the Facebook and Instagram services in the EU”

Now, Facebook appears to be walking back on those threats to leave Europe. Vice President of Facebook, Nick Clegg, commented that a reporter had “slightly overwrote” those comments. Clegg further commented, “We’ve taken legal action in the Dublin courts to — in a sense — to try to send a signal that this is a really big issue for the whole European economy, for all small and large companies that rely on data transfers”. It was unclear at the time how the court in question would react to comments like that.

Julian Assange’s court hearing continues to make headlines this month. It’s been a hugely controversial court hearing that involved the blocking of civil rights observers. It also featured accusations that defense was not given enough time to put together a proper case. More recently, we are seeing some developments on this front. The hearing has now been concluded and a verdict is expected on January 4th of next year.

Rights organizations have responded to the prosecution of Assange with continued condemnation. The Electronic Frontier Foundation called the case “selective prosecution“. The organization picked up on the point that the alleged offense of attempting to crack a password may not even be related to the leaking of documents in the first place. A major reason why this is being questioned is because the conversation took place after the leak occurred. The EFF further comments, “as the court assesses these charges against Assange, we urge them to see this case within the context of a repeated, known pattern of governments enforcing computer crime law selectively and purposely in order to punish dissenting voices, including journalists. Journalism is not a crime, and journalism practiced with a computer is not a cyber-crime, no matter how U.S. prosecutors might wish it were”.

Meanwhile, the Epic vs. Apple court battle is continuing. A decision on how the court case will play out has been made. Both parties ultimately agreed that this will be a trial by judge alone. This means that there will be no jury. Epic additionally admitted that they knew they were avoiding the fees as prohibited by Apple. In court documents, they said, “Epic does not dispute that this competing payment solution was prohibited by contractual provisions that Apple has unlawfully forced on developers like Epic who sell in-app digital content, even though Apple allows numerous other app developers to use competing solutions. Epic also does not dispute that, if Apple’s contracts were lawful, all in-app purchases made by Fortnite users on iOS would be subject to Apple’s 30% tax, even though Apple has exempted numerous other developers from this tax. But Epic denies that its refusal to abide by Apple’s anti-competitive scheme was in any way wrongful.”

COVID-19 continues to have an impact on technology and digital news as well. Earlier this month, US president, Donald Trump, tested positive for COVID-19. He was then rushed to hospital where he received, what was described as, a “cocktail” of medications to fight the virus. The news of Trumps hospitalization spread like wildfire on social media. In response, social media platforms had to remind users that wishing the death of the president is a violation of their rules. In a Tweet, Twitter said the following: “Tweets that wish or hope for death, serious bodily harm or fatal disease against anyone are not allowed and will need to be removed”

Shortly after coming out of the hospital, Trump issued comments saying that COVID-19 is just like the flu. He also commented that COVID-19 is nothing to really be afraid of. Several of those comments were deleted on both Facebook and Twitter because of rules surrounding the spread of false information.

Not even a week later, Trump said that he is now immune to COVID-19. This is presumably a continuation of the now false theory that people who get COVID-19 cannot get it again. It’s supposedly thanks to the immune system now able to fight the virus much like the flu. Recent stories are casting serious doubt that this is the case. In response, Twitter flagged the tweet for violating the rules about spreading false information.

In a related story, social media is carrying out an additional crackdown on conspiracy theorist cult, QAnon. QAnon pushes hazardous theories that encourage people to not take flu vaccines, believes that COVID-19 is a hoax, and encourages people to not wear masks or practice social distancing. These are among a number of other conspiracy theories pushed by QAnon. TikTok said that they are banning QAnon conspiracy theory content as well as banning accounts that try to push those theories. YouTube also said that they, too, are cracking down on that kind of content. Specifically, YouTube says that they are enforcing rules that prohibit content that pushes conspiracy theories that justifies violence against individuals. The moves are a follow-up to actions made by Twitter and Facebook.

Canada made headlines after Michael Geist criticized the government’s direction on digital rights and innovation. Last month, we brought you word that Canadian Heritage Minister, Steven Guilbeault, was pushing the theory that news aggregators are somehow stealing from news publishers by linking to them. In response, he is pushing for a link tax in Canada. Geist commented that the push for innovation and technology has gone by the way-side. Geist also said that the angle the current government is going for is to “get money from web giants”. Geist concluded that the Canadian government has effectively ejected the Digital Agenda in the process.

Sticking to Canada, Canada is among 7 countries calling for various social media platforms to break their security. They are demanding that backdoors be implemented into their encryption. Many security experts have already blasted this move as being impossible to accomplish without compromising the security of users. The calls are seemingly a part of a renewed effort that has been happening for quite some time. Arguably, this push has been happening since 2018 when Australia passed its anti-encryption laws. After passing those laws, the government then used those laws to crack down on journalists publishing unfavorable coverage of the Australian government. After the Australian incident, spy organizations have been trying to use it as a platform to gather momentum and get other countries to crack down on encryption as well.

Finally, the Recording Industry Association of America made headlines this month. The major record labels filed a DMCA complaint against Github repositories of backup tool YouTube DL. YouTube DL allows users to back up and watch content from streaming sites offline. It also enables users to backup their content on those sites as well. The RIAA contends that the tool is a way for users to infringe on their copyright and demanded that the tool be taken offline. While Github removed several repositories, the tools remain online on YouTube DL’s official website.

Video Game Reviews

So, another very eventful month here on Freezenet. Let’s switch gears and talk about entertainment.

Before we get into the video game reviews, we wanted to point out that we have posted another first impression video. This month, we tried the Steam game Borderlands. If you’d like to check out that video, you can head on over to our site. Alternatively, you can watch the video directly on YouTube. I’ll leave a link in the transcript if you’d like to check that out. I’ll also leave a link to our official YouTube channel in the transcript. Through that, you can see what other games we covered on YouTube.

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

First up is The Flintstones: King Rock Treasure Island for the Game Boy. An OK game, but an over reliance on stunning enemies and tough difficulty does hold this game back. So, this game gets an average 62%.

Next up is Kid Dracula for the Game Boy. A surprisingly good title with a nice sense of humor. Still, this game does feature a steep difficult curve. Overall, this game gets a very respectable 78%.

After that, we tried Yoshi’s Cookie for the Game Boy. An annoying end game for each round, but a game with very solid quality otherwise. This one gets a solid 72%.

We then tried Total Carnage for the Game Boy. Buggy collision detection and the edges of the screen randomly kill you. An overall unpleasant game that gets a 44%.

Finally, we played Donkey Kong for the Game Boy. Good variety in moves and obstacles. A game that is also very forgiving. However, there is quite the lull in difficulty part way through. This one gets a solid 70%.

Music Reviews

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

Sophie B. Hawkins – Damn I Wish I Was Your Lover

Technotronic Featuring Ya Kid K – Move This

Elton John – The One

Shakespears Sister – Stay

Linkin Park – Numb

KWS – Please Don’t Go

Amy Grant – Good For Me

… and finally Toad the Wet Sprocket – All I Want

Picks of the Month

So, that leads us to our pick of the month. This month, our pick of the month belongs to Linkin Park – Numb.

Oddities

And in other news…

An Anchorage dentist has been handed a prison sentence. This after he decided to show off his skills as a dentist. He decided to perform a tooth extraction while on a hoverboard. The patient in question was out cold and was unaware that this was happening. In a video that appeared on social media, the dentist is seen riding in on his hovorboard, performing the task, then riding out of the room again. After that, he pulled off his plastic gloves and raised his hands in a sort of victory celebration. Many criticized the dentist because he could have killed his patient doing this. Long story short, plenty of people had a problem with this. That and the fact that he was allegedly defrauding the system in the process. Bad ideas all around, really.

An Arkansas man had received a fast food order at his home. Apparently, the order was incorrect. He was upset that his hamburger had mayonnaise. After a heated exchange, he apparently pulled out a weapon and shot and killed one person while injuring a second. A jury sentenced the man to 100 years in prison for first degree murder and first degree battery. Speculation is that he might have been more of a Miracle Whip guy.

An Albuquerque suspect was nabbed at a border patrol checkpoint. While police questioned him, the suspect tried to play dumb and say he didn’t know why he was being questioned. His brilliant plan was to pose as his brother. Unfortunately for the suspect, the brother was apparently not that much better off. His brother was also wanted by the FBI. One way or another, he wasn’t getting out of custody. Yeah, if your going to pretend to be someone else, make sure that person isn’t also on wanted posters as well.

Outro

Before we close out this months podcast, we got one quick announcement to make. This month, we posted the September Wiki content patch. This patch includes discography information for Daniel Kandi. In addition to this, we’ve added information for the Always Alive record label. From there, we began adding the Always Alive podcast. The initial patch points out that we have added 5 episodes, but we have since added more. Definitely feel free to check out our Wiki to find out what’s new!

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 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 October, 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 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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