Freezenet’s Official Podcast: September 2021: Election Night in Canada

In the 35th episode of the Freezenet official podcast, “Election Night in Canada”, we take a look at the news and reviews we covered in September 2021.

Welcome to the Public version of the Freezenet official podcast for September 2021.

This month’s episode is entitled Election Night in Canada for our unmatched election coverage through the lens of digital rights.

In addition to this, we cover the online speech concerns surrounding the Texas anti-abortion law as well as Apple’s file and message scanning story.

We also cover all the usual music and video game reviews and even cover the a story about a really bad reason to call 999 in the UK. 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

Election Night in Canada!

Hi, I’m your host, Drew Wilson.  Welcome to episode 35 of the Freezenet official podcast for September, 2021.  Here are your top 3 headlines:

The Top 3

Our unmatched analysis of the Federal Canadian election on digital rights concludes with platforms and debates covered

Texas anti-abortion bill sparks concerns about censorship.  This as large sites start pushing back against for profit harassment mobs online

… and Apple’s file and message scanning plans gets delayed after push back

Top Stories

It’s official.  Freezenet has successfully provided the best and most comprehensive Canadian election coverage through the lens of digital rights in the world.  No one else even came close to our level of analysis.  That makes two elections in a row that we were successful at that.

Last month, we brought you our analysis of the Conservative Party platform, the NDP platform, the Open Media platform, and even noted the absence of the Canadian Pirate Party.  This month, we continued our analysis with the Bloc Quebecois.

Their platform was in French only.  No English translated version was ever released.  So, we had to rely on our very limited French and some machine translation to get a rough idea of what the party is about.  What we got out of the platform was that the party opposes freedom of expression through their support of Bill C-10.  They also said that they don’t like the incitement of online violence, but didn’t offer any way of combating such a thing.  They also joined other parties in supporting an additional 3% tax on online web giants.  Finally, they said that they want to take money from those online web giants and funnel it into Quebec.

We also opened the discussion up on this platform.  We asked if anyone came up with a different interpretation, but no one stepped forward, so we are left with the conclusion that our interpretation was correct.

After that, we got to see the Liberal party platform.  Again, due to time constraints, we had to split our analysis into two parts.  In the first part, we found that the platform says that the party promises to revive the shelved digital charter.  They also offered an ominous promise to reform copyright law.  After that, they vowed to push through Bill C-10 and the link tax within 100 days of their mandate.  They also said that they want to increase broadband access in rural and indigenous communities.  That with the caveat of a “use it or lose it” system for ISPs.

In the second part of our analysis, we found that the party supports right to repair legislation.  They are also calling for the online harms proposal to be law within 100 days.  They said that they want to protect privacy on International trade.  They also made vague references to cyber-security, dragnet surveillance (AKA Lawful Access), and even anti-encryption laws.  Specifics were not really present, however.

From there, we were able to perform our analysis on the Green Party.  It was a platform that sounded great at first, but went downhill in a hurry towards the end of it.  They promised to expand broadband in rural communities, break up the telecom monopolies, track online hate, scrapping ISDS provisions in international trade agreements, implementing the Liberals war on the Internet, cracking down on freedom of expression by pushing Bill C-10, and study ways of taxing cryptocurrencies.

We then turned our attention to the People’s Party of Canada.  They said that they are opposed to Bill C-10.  They also want to narrow the definitions of anti-discrimination laws to simply speech that encourages violence.  The platform then talks about cracking down on free speech that supports the environment and speech that is against pipelines.

With every party analyzed to the best of our abilities, we then ranked the platforms from best to worst.  This year, there was only one platform that didn’t fail.  That was the Open Media platform.  Unfortunately, they aren’t running as a party.  Every other platform got a failing grade.  The order from best to worst after is Conservatives, the NDP, Green Party, the People’s Party of Canada, the Bloc Quebecois, and failing the hardest was the Liberals.  We also mention that the Pirate Party of Canada is not present.  It’s a disappointing outcome because there were two platforms that we considered passable in last election: the NDP and the Green Party.  This year, they both failed thanks to their varying support of Bill C-10.

So, with the platforms analyzed (and that area of the election being a bust), we turned to the leaders debates.  The only debate we couldn’t get access to was the French TVA debate.  We did, however, get access to the English leaders debate.

There were only passing mentions of digital rights in the whole two hour special.  One mention was from Conservative leader, Erin O’Toole, who mentioned affordability of Internet and cell phones at 1 hour and 16 minutes in.  At 1 hour, 48 minutes in, NDP leader, Jagmeet Singh, was asked about how he could afford some of his promises.  He answered that the money would come from taxing the ultra wealthy including taxing the large web giants.

So, two hours of debate and that’s all we got for digital rights.  Ultimately, digital rights was largely absent from that debate.

With the English leaders debate also a bust, we then turned to the French leaders debate. There were a few more mentions about digital related issues.  For instance, 40 minutes in, Liberal leader, Justin Trudeau, mentioned something about a digital transition for businesses.

47 minutes in, Jagmeet Singh was asked about how he would go about taxing large tech giant’s like Amazon.  More specifically, he was asked that since Amazon boss, Jeff Bezos is in the US, wouldn’t it be harder to tax that company?  The answer was quite straight forward.  Singh replied that if you are doing business in Canada, you have to pay Canadian taxes.  That’s pretty much common sense there, really.

At an hour and 29 minutes, Erin O’Toole was asked about cultural investments.  He said that he was interested in taxing web giants.  He said that Canada needs a level playing field while protecting freedom of expression.

An hour and 34 minutes in, Trudeau said that he wanted to tax web giants.  He said that taxing web giants is of international interest in that countries are all trying to figure out how to tax them.  Trudeau also said that he pushed for Bill C-10’s passage, but Conservatives stopped him.  He then said that he would always be there for artists.

So, while there were more mentions in the French leaders debate, digital issues wasn’t really all that well discussed.  It was more passing mentions while discussing other issues.  In our conclusion, the French leaders debate was also a bust for the most part.

So, a safe conclusion was that digital issues were not really part of this election.  These will likely be big issues when the new government steps in, but Canadian’s never really got to have a say on matters.  By this point, we had already provided some predictions on the outcome of the election.  Shortly after the election was called, we predicted a Liberal minority government.  We also predicted that it would take a while for the projection of a Liberal minority to come out.  We even predicted that this will be a low voter turnout election this year thanks to this being a really boring election about nothing.

Building on those predictions, we started to speculate on what the future holds for digital rights.  First, we listed off 5 things you probably won’t see in the next government.  Those are an increase in competition in the wireless and the Internet carrier industry (as widely promised by the parties), lower on average bills for Internet and cell phones (widely promised, unlikely to deliver), real privacy reform that becomes law and actually makes real differences on privacy issues in Canada (will probably, at best, get shelved like the last government once lobbyists come knocking), increased access to broadband in rural and indigenous communities (likely going to focus on the issue of clean drinking water and, if successful, call it a win and move on), and the seemingly mythical digital charter (something that will probably get shelved like the last government).  We’re pretty sure none of these are going to come to fruition.

If you thought that was depressing, things got worse with what we think you will probably see in the next government.  In short, it’s the Liberals three pronged war on the open Internet.  Those prongs being speech regulation (as seen with Bill C-10), online harms, and link taxes.  These were openly promised in the Liberal party’s platform and the party didn’t shy away from this during the election.  Chances are, speech regulation is coming first.  This given that a bill was already drafted in the previous government.  After that, we’ll probably see the online harms legislation given that there was a so-called “consultation” process during the election.  After that, we’ll probably see link taxes after.  The last one was the least developed of the three.  Still, it’s going to be fast-paced and in succession.  So, that’s what we’ll probably see in this government, sadly enough.

On election day, we discussed the path the war on the Internet would probably take.  With little appetite for another election, it probably won’t be what saves the Internet this time around.  Delays, however, might make a difference.  Failing that, we’ll probably see litigation roll out to put a stop to the madness.

After that, results started pouring in.  First, we were correct in that the results were a Liberal minority government.  Second, we were correct that it took a while for the final projection to come in.  At first, we weren’t sure if the low voter turnout rate was going to come true.  This given the higher voter turnout rate for early voting.  As it turns out, the rest of the voting numbers came in and the turnout was at historic lows.  So, a third prediction that came true.

With the remnants of uncertainty swept away, we started to speculate that there might be a mention of the war on the open Internet in the throne speech.  Generally, we foresee that this government is going to mean a bumpy ride for the free and open Internet.  Unfortunately, we noted, we are now strapped in and ticking up on the first incline.  There’s no getting off now.

Another thing we are looking at is whether or not Steven Guilbeault, the Heritage Minister that seemingly botched almost everything related to Bill C-10 in the first place, would keep his position.  Given his performance in the past, the answer should be “no”, but who knows with Trudeau?

As our predictions kept coming true, it seems that others began taking notice.  Shortly after the election results, Open Media launched a petition denouncing censorship.  They encourage Canadians to sign the petition as a show of opposition to what is likely forthcoming.  We noted that the petition faces an uphill battle with the Liberals already widely known for ignoring public input on this front.  Still, a petition like this with loads of signatures is a powerful signal.  The message would be that this is being done with the disapproval of the Canadian public at large.  As such, we encourage Canadians to sign the petition anyway.

While there was certainly plenty of interesting, if depressing, things going on in Canada, there was certainly no shortage of drama going on south of the border as well.  This revolves around the Texas anti-abortion law.  This really is a case that ultimately shook the entire US legal community.  Case law is, of course, clear.  The US Supreme court decided in the Roe v Wade case that women have a right to choose.  Recently, however, the US Supreme Court threw out case law and, based on political motivation, decided to overturn the case.  Law experts were stunned and angered that this took place.

The Texas anti-abortion law says that anyone who performs, or otherwise assists, in an abortion can be liable for a $10,000 fine.  Money from that fine can go to people who reported a violation.  You can already see just how many consequences there are as a result of this.  At this point, you might be thinking, “Wait, what does this have to do with digital rights?”  Glad you asked because we are just getting started going down this Orwellian rabbit hole.

First of all, what constitutes as helping or assisting in an abortion?  As it turns out, if you are an Uber driver, and you happen to find yourself driving someone to a location that helps them get to a clinic to perform an abortion, you could legally be liable for a fine.  This is regardless if the driver knew or didn’t know what was happening during transport.  Both Uber and Lyft have said that if any of their drivers were fined or sued under this law, they would pay their legal bills in a bid to defend their employees.

Of course, it’s not just drivers potentially in the cross-hairs of this law.  Oh no, the law is much much worse then that.  Anyone commenting on the Internet could become implicated in this new law.  If you so much as give medical advice of any kind, whether or not it resulted in an abortion, you could also be fined under the law.  It’s with that, among many reasons, why the Electronic Frontier Foundation raised serious concerns about the free speech implications of this law.

One of the worries is that this law would create a class of bounty hunters looking to score cash for turning in their friends, loved ones, and neighbours.  This both offline and online.  While that sounds like this stretches the realms of plausibility, it actually happened on the same day.

A pro-life organization created a website designed to help people blow the whistle on accused law breakers.  Texans can report violations of the law in exchange for potential cash derived from the fines.  While things started looking catastrophic, GoDaddy apparently decided that this was not the kind of website they wanted to offer their services to.  In response, GoDaddy gave the owners 24 hours to find new hosting before they shut down the site.  This after cited terms of service violations revolving around harvesting personal information about other people.  So, essentially, it was privacy violations that caused GoDaddy to pull the plug on the site.

The owners then set up shop on another hosting provider known as Digital Ocean.  In response, Digital Ocean also terminated services for the site similarly citing violations of their terms of service.  After that, they then turned to Epik, the domain name registrar known for hosting far right websites.

With the website struggling to gain a reliable web presence, would-be bounty hunters then turned to Reddit.  A subreddit was created to help users turn in people or to help people collect on bounties.  Potential mob members started asking each other how they can turn people in in different situations.  In response, Reddit banned the subreddit citing violations of rules surrounding intimidation and harassment.  Of course, for a number of people, it was upsetting seeing the level of interest such a subreddit got in the first place.

As we would later find out, a number of American’s were not happy with how this was developing.  A number of TikTok users started sharing scripts and bots to flood the whistle-blowing site with false information.  Others manually added fake reports in an effort to make the data set useless.

That, however, didn’t last long because Epik decided to pull the plug on the site as well.  Epik, for it’s part, also cited violations of their terms of service for the termination.  So, the site went offline again.  Ultimately, there is push back against all this activity, but at the same time, there is interest in this for-profit venture in the first place.  Pretty dramatic stuff to say the least.

Last month, we brought you news that Apple intends on scanning people’s photo’s uploaded to the iCloud as well as messages sent on iMessage.  It was a controversial move because when Apple was fighting backdoors to its encryption demanded by the American government, they famously ran an ad campaign saying that what happens on your iPhone stays on your iPhone.  This essentially is an about face on that.

Since that plan was announced, Apple drew criticism.  An open letter was sent to Apple’s CEO, Tim Cook, saying, in part, “We support efforts to protect children and stand firmly against the proliferation of CSAM. But the changes that Apple has announced put children and its other users at risk both now and in the future. We urge Apple to abandon those changes and to reaffirm the company’s commitment to protecting its users with end-to-end encryption. We also urge Apple to more regularly consult with civil society groups, and with vulnerable communities who may be disproportionately impacted by changes to its products and services.”

Along with the open letter signed by various civil groups, digital rights organizations were also passing around a petition against these new surveillance plans.  American’s can sign the petition through the Electronic Frontier Foundation while Canadians can sign a petition through Open Media.  European Digital Rights also expressed opposition to this plan on top of it all.  So, suffice to say, there are not a lot of fans to Apple’s move.

Some might look at this and say, “Well, Apple is a private company and a large tech giant.  Are petitions and open letters even going to make a difference?”  Well, in this case, the answer is absolutely yes.  After the backlash, Apple announced that it was delaying the roll-out of this surveillance plan.  While this is a win, digital rights organizations like the Electronic Frontier Foundation responded by saying, ‘not good enough.’  They are calling on Apple to abandon these plans altogether, not just delay them.  That organization, along with Fight for the Future, organized protests at various Apple properties across the US.  Photo’s of these protests were later posted online.

So, yeah, this is definitely one of those months where all heck is breaking loose.  Let’s keep this insanity train going with the other stories making news this month.

Other Stories Making News

Another aspect of the Canadian election that caught our attention was how Twitter moderated content.  Compared to the last election, where the CBC sued the Conservative Party, this election was pretty tame on this front.  Still, both the Conservative Party and the Liberal Party got hit with moderation.

From the Conservative side, one of their ads got hit with a DMCA notice.  The ad superimposed Justin Trudeau on a character from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.  Even for some Conservatives, the ad was made in poor taste to begin with.  Still, the copyright holders of the movie said that the ad is copyright infringement.  Now, an argument can be made that the ad is fair dealing as it is a satirical take on the scene.  It’s not a good take, but an argument could be made about it being fair dealing.

Meanwhile, the Liberals also got hit with moderation with one of their attack ads on Twitter.  It attacked O’Toole by suggesting that he supports for profit medical care in Canada.  It seems that because of the way the video was edited, Twitter flagged the video as “manipulated media”.  The Liberals tried to defend themselves by posting a link to the whole video after, but naturally, the Conservatives played up the idea that the tweet was changed because they got caught.  Now, what actually constitutes “manipulated media” is still pretty unclear.  Further, trying to work with Twitter on fixing the problem can be pretty touch and go.

Regardless of which side you are on, it’s safe to say that both parties got nailed by moderation this election cycle.

The Federal Trade Commission is making another attempt at suing Facebook for anti-trust violations.  In 2020, the FTC made an attempt to break up the company only to have their case tossed by a judge.  The FTC has filed an amended complaint, this time, hoping that second time is the charm.

Meanwhile, the T-Mobile data breach story is following an unnervingly familiar trend.  Previously, the breach was estimated to affect roughly 47 million customers.  One report upgraded that to more than 50 million.  After that, another report estimated the breach to actually weigh in at 100 million.  The number of potential victims is growing.  Another unsurprising aspect is that T-Mobile was also hit with a pair of class action lawsuits as a result of the breach.

Apple was forced to issue a security patch on all of their operating systems.  This after a zero-click vulnerability was discovered by Toronto based organization, Citizen Lab.  The vulnerability was apparently exploited by notorious malware vendor, NSO Group.  While it is unclear how many other exploits are being used by the organization, this is one exploit that won’t be reliably used again.

Fresh off the heels of turning the US legal community upside down, Texas has also passed a bill banning social media from moderating its users.  The legislation bars platforms with more than 50 million users to ban users for so-called “political viewpoints”.  Texas governor, Greg Abbott, argues that social media platforms are modern day squares and are, therefore, simply public for people to share their viewpoints.  It’s still unclear how you could call platforms like Facebook and Twitter public when they are still private companies, but this is where we are at in this debate.

It may feel like just a little while ago, but the Apple vs. Epic case dates clear back into last year.  This is the case where Apple banned Epic from their app store for circumventing their Apple Pay system through the game Fortnite.  A judge has handed down a split decision in the case.  The judge basically said that Apple is not a monopoly as Epic argued.  This, of course, is a legal win for Apple.  Meanwhile, Epic got some good news in that developers should be free to use what payment system they choose in their app.  It’s unclear at this point if an appeal is in the works about this decision.

Finally, the Internet Society, Canada Chapter, has published it’s response to Canada’s Online Harms so-called “consultation”.  The non-profit organization railed against the process, noting that:

One: The consultation was held during an election…

two: The points in the discussion paper are parts of political party platforms…

… and three: The consultation paper does not offer alternative idea’s to their proposal, suggesting that this consultation is not a serious attempt to gain public feedback.

The organization did move forward despite this and addressed the threats that could be imposed by this online harms proposal.  Their whole paper is worth reading, but I will point out that this is only the second submission we’ve seen that opposes the online harms proposal.  The first was published by myself right here on Freezenet.  So, it’s really nice to know that I wasn’t alone in opposing this move by the Canadian government.

Video Game Reviews

So, whew!  That was quite the emotional roller-coaster.  Like I said, though, one of those months.  So, let’s cool things down and turn towards 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 month’s Steam game, we checked out Sacred Gold.  An RPG game not very many gamers are apparently familiar with.  So, an interesting one to play.  You can check out the video directly on our site or via YouTube.

As for this months Playstation 3 game, we played a title a lot more people are familiar with: The Last of Us.  You can check out that video, as well, 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 game we checked out is Klax for the Game Boy Color.  A game with novelty and a unique style of play, but this wears out quickly and becomes boring and repetitive after a while.  So, this one flopped with a 38%.

From there, we tried Driver: You Are the Wheelman for the Game Boy Color.  A game that does require some patience and sports OK graphics, but you are generally better off playing the Playstation version of this game.  So, a game with a mediocre 66%.

After that, we tried Bugs Bunny: Crazy Castle 3 for the Game Boy Color.  A game that’s stretched out and ultimately felt repetitive.  So, one that got a barely passable 52%.

Finally, we tried Klustar for the Game Boy Color.  An attempt at reimagining Tetris, but ultimately an idea that fell far short.  So, this one flopped with a 28%.

Music Reviews

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

Mandala – Australia

Dougal – Stare (Out Mix)

Toxic Twins – Skyscraper (Trancid Mix)

Apollo 440 – Liquid Cool

Inhaler feat. Christian Burns – Something About You (MDE Edit)

Punchunella – San Trancisco (Original Mix)

Program 2 – Una

Sitric – Ascension

… and finally, Humate – Spacetribe

Picks of the Month

So, that leads us to our pick of the month.  This month, our pick of the month belongs to Inhaler feat. Christian Burns – Something About You (MDE Edit).

Oddities

And in other news

Over the years, we’ve seen a lot of bad reasons to call 911 (or 999 if you live in the UK).  At this point, it really has to take the cake for us to consider a reason to be particularly bad to call the emergency services line.  This month, we actually found a particularly bad reason to make that call.  In the UK, a would-be police officer called 999 to check the status of his job application to become a police officer.  Following the call, he apparently didn’t get the job.  I wonder why!

Ultra right wing organization, Proud Boys, made news this month.  Members, of course, were seen at the January 6th insurrection breaking into the building and being part of the vandalism and thefts that took place.  This time, they made the news for what could be a lethal dose of being weird.  Chairman Enrique Tarrio was asked about how members resolve internal disputes.  He replied that they do have a boxing ring for the members to duke it out.  However, according to Tarrio, that isn’t the only way they resolve disputes.  Apparently, they also resolve disputes by licking each others heads.  Dude, what?  He said that the members were calling each other the dumbest things, yet they are resorting to licking each others heads to resolve their differences.  He described those moments as, “pretty magical”.  Thanks for that informative note chairman too much information!

Apple has been going to extreme lengths to track down and stop internal leaks to the media.  Apparently, Tim Cook issued a company wide memo telling staff that people who leak internal memo’s do not belong at Apple.  Since we know this, you can already tell that this was taken from a leaked memo.  Not the first time we’ve seen this kind of irony in the news, but I can tell you that this kind of irony never gets old.

Outro

Before we close out this months podcast, we got one quick announcement to make.  This month, we released the August Wiki content patch.  This got a nice sizable chunk of pages added to the Wiki.  We essentially completed the monstrously large Future Sound of Egypt 350 episode.  To compound the idea that this was huge, we were also able to complete episodes 351 to 399.  Episodes 351 to 399 was, in fact, less work than the work needed to complete episode 350.  Yeah, oof.  So, a load of extra episodes to say the least.  Of course, that also means we hit episode 400 which is, guess what, another monstrously large episode.  We put some basic infrastructure on the page as well as completing the radio episode, but that’s as far as we got.  A lot got done, but a lot more needs to be done still.

As usual, we got other shows updated.  We got the latest episodes of the Future Sound of Egypt up along with the latest episodes for Fables, Resonation, and the V Recordings podcast.  Curiously, there was no new episode for the Random Movement Podcast this month, so that page just remained fully up to date this month.  At any rate, we hope you enjoy this latest batch of content and look forward to adding even more in the future!

Also, as usual, 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!

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

…and that’s this months episode for September, 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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