Texas Sued Over Law That Stops Social Media Sites from Banning Users



The State of Texas has been sued over its new law that prevents social media platforms from banning users over their political views, The Texas Tribune reported.

The Texas bill is called HB 20. Governor Greg Abbott signed it into law. According to The Texas Tribune, the law states that “social media platforms with over 50 million monthly users in the U.S. – a threshold that includes Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube – must publicly report details about content removal and account suspensions biannually. The platforms are also required to establish an easily accessible complaint system, where users could flag violations of the law.”

The lawsuit was filed by NetChoice, LLC and Computer & Communications Industry Association, which represent Google and Twitter in the lawsuit. It was filed against Texas Governor Ken Paxton (in his official capacity as Attorney General of Texas). The case was filed in the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas Austin Division.

Here is a key point from the lawsuit:

…The Commerce Clause does not permit a single state to dictate the rules of content for the global Internet. H.B. 20 would regulate wholly-out-of-state conduct – balkanizing the Internet by imposing onerous extraterritorial regulation on the operation of covered social media platforms. This vastly exceeds Texas’s regulatory purview and will impede commerce across the Internet…

USA Today described this Texas law as a “social media censorship law”. According to USA Today, “Texas lawmakers were motivated in large part by the suspensions of former President Donald Trump after the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol”.

Personally, I don’t think this Texas law stands much of a chance in court. USA Today reported that a federal judge blocked a similar Florida law in June, one day before it could take effect.


Fortnite Will Not Return to the App Store Anytime Soon



Fortnite will not be returning to the iOS Apple Store anytime soon, The Verge reported. This was clarified by Apple recently in a series of emails between Apple and CEO and co-founder of Epic, Tim Sweeney.

Recently, Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers issued a permanent injunction to Apple, to restrain Apple from “prohibiting developers from including their apps and their metadata buttons, external links, or other calls to action that direct customers to purchasing mechanisms, in addition to In-App Purchasing and communicating to customers through points of contact obtained voluntarily from customers through account registration within the app.” That seemed to be in Epic’s favor.

In addition, the judge also sided in Apple’s favor, requiring Epic to pay damages to Apple in an amount equal to 30% of the $12,167,719 in revenue Epic Games collected from users on the Fortnite app on iOS through Epic Direct Payment between August and October 2020, plus 30% of such revenue Epic Games collected from November 1, 2020, though the date of judgement, and interest.” In short, the judge felt Epic Games had breached its contract with Apple.

Epic Games decided to appeal the ruling.

CEO and co-founder of Epic, Tim Sweeney, posted on the Epic Games website about this situation (and also tweeted about it).

Tim Sweeney wrote, Apple lied. Apple spent a year telling the world, the court, and the press they’d “welcome Epic’s return to the App Store if they agree to play by the same rules as everyone else.” Epic agreed, and now Apple has reneged in another abuse of its monopoly over a billion users. According to Tim Sweeney, Epic has paid Apple $6,000,000 as ordered by the court.

The blog post includes a screenshot from Tim Sweeney to someone at Apple. There is also a screenshot of a response from what appears to be a lawyer for Apple. The response briefly reviews the outcome of the case. The key points appear to be these: “Apple has exercised its discretion not to reinstate Epic’s developer program account at this time. Furthermore, Apple will not consider any further requests for reinstatement until the district court’s judgement becomes final and nonappealable.”


Farewell TrackR



Apple released its AirTags earlier this year, but companies like TrackR, Tile and Chipolo have been doing Bluetooth-based trackers for much longer. I supported TrackR on Indiegogo back in 2014 when it raised over US$1 million, and I bought a pack of ten Bravo tags. TrackR always seemed to be teetering on the edge of greatness but never quite made that breakthrough and, sadly, it now appears that it’s fallen into the abyss. A message on its website says, “We regret to inform you that TrackR will no longer be supported on Apple or Android devices after August 15, 2021. We want to thank you for your trust and support throughout the years. We hope TrackR was the perfect resolution for finding your lost items.

TrackR’s products weren’t perfect – the Bravo was a bit quiet and the battery door on the Pixel was tricky – but it got many things right. Tracking could be shared across multiple devices, e.g. your tablet and your phone; there was family sharing so your phone could report on the presence of your partner’s bag; and if you lost your keys, the TrackR community could look for them on your behalf.

And TrackR really did save the day. I remember one time I dropped my car keys in the boot (trunk) of my car. Somehow the keys managed to fall below the removable floor and into the spare tyre well. Without the TrackR tag beeping away and guiding the way, I would never have found the keys in just a few minutes. It would never have occurred to me to look below the boot floor.

TrackR rebranded as Adero back in 2018 as it looked to move beyond tracking tags, but that website has gone dark too.

For now, the TrackR app continues to work as long as I don’t log out of the app, but it looks like if I move to a new phone, the tags will become e-waste, which is a shame. I’ll have to look for a replacement. Samsung’s SmartTags only work with their phones and tablets, which is disappointing, so I suspect I’ll be looking at Tile instead.


Senate calls on FTC to Protect Consumer Privacy #1555



Democrats in the Senate have sent the FTC a request to make rules to protect consumer privacy seeing they have failed to get any type of legislation passed in recent history. I am of the opinion that anything the FTC or FCC does will result in an epic court battle that they will likely lose. There needs to be trust legislation to bring consumer privacy back into alignment.

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“Gigabites of Data” Accessed from Web Host Epik



You may have heard of Epik (the web host – not Epic the gaming company). According to Gizmodo, Epik the web host and domain registrar provides services to Gab, Parler, and Bitchute (which Gizmodo described as “conspiracy-theory-laden YouTube wannabe), and The Donald (a President Trump fansite).

Epik also recently hosted the Texas whistleblower website – which was intended to allow people to “snitch on Texas residents who want abortions.” Gizmodo reported that Epic forcibly removed the Texas site from the platform after determining it had violated Epik’s terms by non-consensually collecting third-party information.

Those sites seem to end up on Epik after breaking the terms of services of whatever mainstream hosting company they started with.

TechCrunch reported that hackers associated with the hacktivist collective Anonymous say they have leaked gigabytes of data from Epik. The hackers did not say how they obtained the breached data or when the hack took place. TechCrunch says that, according to time stamps, the most recent files suggest the hack “most likely” happened in late February.

It appears that the hackers have now released the information that was in the Epik data breach. TechCrunch reported what was in the data breach, based on a statement from the hackers.

What kind of information was in the data breach? TechCrunch reported that a statement was sent to a torrent file of the dumped data this week. It included a “decades worth” of company data, including “all that’s needed to trace actual ownership and management” of the company. The hackers claimed to have customer payment histories, domain purchases and transfers, passwords, credentials and employee mailboxes.

According to TechCrunch, Epik initially told reporters it was unaware of a breach but an email set out by founder and chief executive Robert Monster on Wednesday altered users to an “alleged security incident.” To me, it sounds like the damage had already been done before users were alerted to it by email.

This is a really good example of why you need to be absolutely certain that the web host that is hosting your content is a reliable one.


Fake Covid Vaccine Cards Exploding on Marketplaces #1554



Since President Biden has issued more vaccine mandates there has been a surge in fake covid vaccine cards being sold on the internet for as much as $100 each. With no digital tracking in many states this is going to be a ongoing growing concern as these cards make it into the general population.

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Xiaomi 11T Pro Charges to 100% in 17 minutes



After yesterday’s event by the #3 smartphone brand, it’s the turn of Xiaomi, #2 worldwide smartphone brand, to show off their latest gear, and it’s a tasty selection of tech. Amazingly, it’s taken Xiaomi only 11 years to get to #2 (#1 in Europe), and while it would be easy to say that they’ve benefitted from Huawei’s woes, they do make very competitive products.

Xiaomi 11T series
First out of the gate are Xiaomi’s new flagship phones, the 11T and 11T Pro. Available in three colours: Meteorite Gray, Moonlight White and Celestial Blue, Xiaomi has focussed on cinematography, from the recording all the way through to the viewing. Cinemagic, as they say. The company has created some pretty cool tricks, such as the video focussing on the loudest sound and has partnered with the Sundance Institute to provide classes on filming. There are three rear cameras, a 108 MP main shooter, a 120° landscape and a telemacro lens. The Pro offers end-to-end 8K HDR10+ video capabilities and Dolby Vision.

Under the hood, the 11T Pro is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 processor whereas the 11T runs on the MediaTek Dimensity 1200-Ultra. On the front, it’s a 120 Hz ActiveSync AMOLED TrueColour screen showing 1 billion colours protected by Gorilla Glass Victus. It’s a WQHD+ screen, which is 2960×1440. The screen received A+ from DisplayMate, setting or matching records in 14 display categories. Sound-wise, the phones come with dual speakers tuned by Harman Kardon, supporting Dolby Atmos.

Powering all this in the 11T Pro is a 5000 mAh battery which can be charged from 0 to 100% in 17 minutes using Xiaomi’s 120W HyperCharge. The 11T uses 67W TurboCharge which still charges to 100% in 36 mins. Charger comes in the box.

Pricewise, there are five models across the two phones.

Xiaomi 11T

  • 8 GB + 128 GB 499€
  • 8 GB + 256 GB 549€

Xiaomi 11T Pro

  • 8 GB + 128 GB 649€
  • 8 GB + 256 GB 699€
  • 12 GB + 256 GB 749€

There are some special offers on the pricing, so keep eyes open for those.

Mi 11 Lite 5G NE
Following on the from Mi 11 Lite and Lite 5G, Xiaomi also announced the 11 Lite 5G NE. A fun, light and slim phone at 158g and 6.9mm thick, it comes in four colours: Bubblegum Blue, Peach Pink, Charcoal Black and Snowflake White. The new phone has at 90Hz 10 bit AMOLED screen on the front and round the back, there’s a 64MP main lens, ultrawide and telemacro, plus a 20MP selfie. Powering all this is a Qualcomm Snapdragon 778G.

Pricewise,

  • 6 GB + 128 GB 369€
  • 8 GB + 128 GB 399€

Xiaomi Pad 5
Next, Xiaomi announced the Pad 5, an 11″ tablet with a 1600 x 2560 display in an aluminium frame and smart pen support. Driven by the Snapdragon 860, the OS has been beefed up with extra features and productivity tools. The battery is 8720 mAh giving 16 hours of video or 10 hours of gaming. I’m delighted to see this as I’m a fan of Android tablets with hi-res screens. Available in Pearl White and Cosmic Gray

  • 6 GB + 128 GB 349€ (299€ special offer)
  • 6 GB +256 GB 399€

You can watch the whole launch event here.