Weekly Axis Of Easy #150
This Week’s Quote: “Our minds tell us, and history confirms, that the great threat to freedom is the concentration of power” …by ???
THE RULES: No searching up the answer, must be posted to the blog.
The Prize: First person to post the correct answer gets their next domain or hosting renewal on us.
In this issue:
- Zoom shuts down Chinese dissidents marking the Tiananmen Square Massacre
- Twitter restores Zerohedge account, admits “mistake”
- Joanna Hoffman: Facebook is destroying society
- It’s official: QuadrigaCX was a ponzi (sort of)
- Breach of the week: 300K Nintendo accounts in NNID hack
- EU to charge Amazon with anti-trust violations
- Amazon and IBM move to curtail LEA use of facial recognition
- EFF: You have a constitutional right to film the police
- Honda shuts down factories after cyberattack
- Singapore plans to deploy contact tracing device to all citizens
Last week, a report surfaced that Zoom had shut down the accounts of student survivors of the Tiananmen Square massacre who were meeting virtually to commemorate the June 4, 1989 event.
As the Financial Times reports, the video call was setup by people physically in the United States but included attendees from China. Zoom claims the call and the accounts were terminated “for violating local law”, which means, local Chinese State law, because in China, it is more or less illegal to refer to the massacre of student activists as anything other than “an incident”.
What actually happened was the army began firing into the crowd of students who had gathered for ongoing protests, killing at least 300.
Not a lot of people know that today, because mainstream media and tech platforms usually bend over to accommodate the Chinese Communist Party’s pressure to keep a lid on the narrative.
As we reported last year, good ole’ woke Twitter dutifully suspended a plethora of Chinese dissident accounts around the time of the anniversary, while Thompson / Reuters did their best to keep a lid on news stories describing “the incident” for what it was. A massacre.
Read: https://www.ft.com/content/f24bc9c6-ed95-4b31-a011-9e3fcd9cf006 (paywall)
The news also recently broke that China Daily, a propaganda outlet of the Chinese Communist Party, paid various US news outlets a total of $19 million since 2016 to run advertisements that looked like editorials. Washington Post and Wall Street Journal received $4.6 million and $6 million respectively, the high powered Foreign Policy journal received $2.4 million, with smaller payments made to the New York Times and the Des Moines Register.
As the world was headed into the weekend this past Friday night, the folks at Zerohedge received a short email from Twitter, stating that they had suspended the independent news outfit’s account “in error” and had restored access to it.
On January 31st, Twitter “permanently banned” Zerohedge after it published an article speculating on the possible Wuhan laboratory origins of COVID-19. That notion has since graduated from conspiracy theory into being championed by a Nobel Laureate and the subject of investigations by Western intelligence agencies.
Maybe Zerohedge will imminently receive a blue checkmark.
Joanna Hoffman: Facebook is destroying society
While participating in a panel as part of the 2020 CogX conference (which I assume was held virtually), and responding to a question about “the cult of leadership in the technology industry”, former Steve Jobs lieutenant, had some interesting thoughts about Facebook.
While conceding that she respected what Facebook had accomplished, she mused that
“As I look at Facebook, for example, I keep thinking are they really that ignorant or is this motivated by something … darker than what appears?”
And further opined that Facebook was
“destroying the very fabric of democracy, destroying the very fabric of human relationships and peddling in an addictive drug called anger…. You know it’s just like tobacco, it’s no different than the opioids…We know anger is addictive, we know we can attract people to our platform and get engagement if we get them p—-d off enough. So therefore what, we should capitalize on that each and every time?”
Joanna Hoffman was a key part of the NeXt and original Apple MacIntosh team and key advisor to Steve Jobs.
Hoffman was recently hired to another high level advisory role by a Spanish AI company called Sherpa.
Up and coming social network, MeWe, is attempting to directly challenge Facebook by enshrining all users’ ownership of their data on the platform in a “data bill of rights”. Contrary to Facebook, who regularly changes this up to maximize ad revenues, MeWe also puts the control over what appears in their feeds and what order it appears in directly into the users control. I forgot I had a MeWe account, I’m simply “Mark Jeftovic” over there if you are.
It’s official: QuadrigaCX was a ponzi (sort of)
The Ontario Securities Commission (OSC) has issued a report stating that QuadrigaCX was a Ponzi scam. The ill-fated Canadian crypto-exchange imploded when CEO Gerald Cotten apparently died unexpectedly in India, taking the private keys to the exchange wallets with him.
The OSC found that Cotten had been acting fraudently when he used client balances to fund a lavish lifestyle that included a private yacht, and to trade using bogus accounts. It appears as though QuadrigaCX somehow lost a substantial amount of client funds and then lost more when he tried to trade his way back from his losses using more commingled funds on other exchanges.
The reason I put “sort of” (a ponzi) in the title was because it doesn’t appear to me as if Cotten was operating QCX for the sole purpose of defrauding depositors in a pyramid style scheme, but rather, that he ended up embezzling client funds in an effort to try and uncapsize a rapidly sinking vessel.
We were using QuadrigaCX to out-exchange our own crypto-balances and had moved a significant amount through the platform approximately a year before the implosion. I still shudder to think what could have happened if all this went down in the middle of our out-exchange. That would have sucked.
Breach of the week: 300K Nintendo accounts in NNID hack
We haven’t had a Breach of the Week in awhile, I’m sure they’ve continued to happen but they just didn’t get onto my radar to wind up in these pages.
Nintendo posted an announcement to their Japanese support page that a breach of their Nintendo Network ID system (NNID) in April appears to be worse than originally thought. The company initially set the number of affected customers at 160,000 but have since uncovered another 140,000 accounts impacted.
Details exposed include credit card and Paypal details, as well as name, address, phone and emails of afflicted accounts. The company forced password resets and notified the original 140K accounts back in April are notifying the rest now.
EU to charge Amazon with anti-trust violations
We reported recently in AxisOfEasy 144 how Amazon knocks off third-party sellers using their system by data mining the platform for successful products and then creating their own versions of them, and undercutting the others. The WSJ reported on it, although it’s been going on for years, and both US and EU regulators were looking at the anti-trust implications of it.
Now the WSJ is reporting that it looks like the EU is first out of the gate, with their anti-trust ringer, Margarethe Vestager preparing to file charges imminently. Vestager’s name is well known in Silicon Valley having already taken multiple billions of dollars out of the coffers of Alphabet in three prior anti-trust actions. Now it’s Amazon’s turn.
Read: https://www.wsj.com/articles/amazon-to-face-antitrust-charges-from-eu-over-treatment-of-third-party-sellers-11591871818 (paywall)
Amazon and IBM move to curtail LEA use of facial recognition
Way back in AxisOfEasy 80 we reported on Amazon’s Rekognition facial recognition suite, which it had integrated with its newly acquired Ring video doorbell company and was marketing aggressively to Law Enforcement Agencies.
In our original report we quoted the bit from Amazon patent applications that the suite would create a method
“the police can use to match the faces of people walking by a doorbell camera with a photo database of persons they deem ‘suspicious’.”
Amazon has announced that in light of increased scrutiny on police methods, and data showing that facial recognition software has flaws that present more false positives toward people of colour, they are putting a one year moratorium on its use by LEA.
This comes after IBM has made a similar move over police tactics.
EFF: You have a constitutional right to film the police
Speaking of police tactics, the Electronic Frontier Foundation put out this primer on your legal rights to film the police with your smartphone. While the article is specific to US citizens and their First Amendment rights, while searching around I came across some references that imply it is similarly legal here in Canada to film the police as well.
The EFF issues some basic guidelines and things to keep in mind when and if you do film the police:
- Police can’t order you to move because you are recording. They can order you to move “for public safety reasons” even if you are recording.
- They cannot search your mobile device without a warrant from a judge, they can’t order you to unlock your phone or to delete any footage or pictures.
- You can record video and audio, but some police have tried to assert that recording audio violates US wiretap laws, most attempts have been rejected in court.
That said, there is still the possibility that police may still act contrary to these realities and take or destroy your device, so I’ve also been looking around for ways to live stream, or sync your footage to an off-device service in realtime in case that happens. There have been a few apps that did this but they don’t seem to be widely used or current. The Copwatch app in the iTunes Store only has one review and hasn’t been in the news since 2014, 2015. I downloaded it and plan to test it out. It sends your footage to a Youtube account.
Honda shut down two manufacturing plants, one in Ohio and the other in Turkey after they were hit with a cyberattack on June 9th. The attack is rumoured to be a ransomware attack according to researchers at Malwarebytes.
The ransomware strain is believed to be a relatively new one called EKANS/SNAKE, which was first sighted in the wild in January 2020 and is written in Golang. The threat actor behind the attack appears to be interested in Industrial Control Systems (ICS) according to analysis by another security firm called Dragos Research.
Both the Malwarebytes and Dragos analysis make for some interesting reading.
After trying to deploy a smartphone app that only achieved limited uptake, the government of Singapore will soon be deploying a small, portable device to all 5.7 million citizens of the city state. The device will facilitate coronavirus contact tracing, doesn’t need a mobile device and will be small enough to carry in a purse or tether.
The government did not state if carrying the device would be mandatory.
We’re all-in on bat guana futures
This week on the AxisOfEasy Salon #8, Jesse Hirsh, Charles Hugh Smith, and I continued our exploration of how all this shakes out and what happens when the gulf between the official narrative and observed reality becomes too wide for credulity to bridge.
View here: https://axisofeasy.com/podcast/axisofeasy-salon-8-were-going-all-in-on-bat-guano-futures/
Charles sunk a couple of 3-pointers on The Fab Four of Global Dystopia (that would be Kafka, Huxley, Orwell and Marx) and another on the amorphous unreality of the fully financialized economy.
For my part I managed to get another piece out on Guerrilla Capitalism (which I’m in the process of renaming to “Out of The Cave”) about toxic virtue, the new digital samizdat and being one miscue away from becoming a trending hashtag.
See you all next week.