Scott Ertz - Staff

Scott Ertz

Scott Ertz

Former Segment Host

Current Host

Current UpStream Contributor

Current Product Reviewer

Current Episode Author

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Scott is a developer who has worked on projects of varying sizes, including all of the PLuGHiTz Corporation properties. He is also known in the gaming world for his time supporting the DDR community, through DDRLover and hosting tournaments throughout the Tampa Bar Area. Currently, when he is not working on software projects or hosting F5 Live: Refreshing Technology, Scott can often be found returning to his high school days working with the Foundation for Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST), mentoring teams and judging engineering notebooks at competitions. He has also helped found a student software learning group, the ASCII Warriors.

Recent UpStream Articles

Patreon loses lawsuit over changed terms of service to avoid lawsuit

posted Saturday Aug 1, 2020 by Scott Ertz

Patreon loses lawsuit over changed terms of service to avoid lawsuit

Last year, Patreon kicked comedian Owen Benjamin off the platform because they didn't enjoy his comedy. The company claimed that his comedy violated their terms involving "hate speech." In response to the termination of his account, Benjamin encouraged his fans to sue Patreon for violating the contract between the site and its users, which promises that content, which is paid for, will be available for those who paid.

These suits would create a logjam for Patreon because the company's terms of service allowed for each suit to be litigated individually under California's JAMS arbitration scheme. In addition, Patreon would be required to pay the cost of arbitration upfront for each individual case. In some cases, the fees could be a few thousand dollars, while others could cost tens of thousands of dollars. As a result, Patreon changed its terms of service to say,

You may not bring a claim against us for suspending or terminating another person's account, and you agree you will not bring such a claim. If you try to bring such a claim, you are responsible for the damages caused, including attorneys fees and costs.

While changing policy is a normal process, the way Patreon did it was not. Rather than letting affected users know that a change was coming and giving them a chance to read the changes before they took place, Patreon made the change publicly and then claimed that by using the site, you had accepted the new terms. That meant that people were theoretically under the new terms and could then not participate in the suit under the rules that existed when the violation took place, simply because they had gone back to the site.

Last month, a judge ruled against Patreon, agreeing that the move was not acceptable. The judge said that the change of Terms of Service was tantamount to changing the rules in the middle of the game. The result was revealed this week, and it is going to create a huge problem for Patreon. In fact, the legal fees as a result of this collection of suits is likely to reach as high as $20 million this year alone.

Over the last year, the company has lost market share, care of both its policies against content that the management team doens't like, as well as a huge group of competitors. Because of this, a $20 million legal bill is going to cause additional issues to the brand. The ruling also opens Patreon up to additional suits from the fans of other creators who have been bounced from the platform.

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Twitter hack mastermind could be a 17-year-old boy from Tampa

posted Saturday Aug 1, 2020 by Scott Ertz

Twitter hack mastermind could be a 17-year-old boy from Tampa

Another week, another piece of the Twitter hack details are revealed. Last week, the company revealed that internal employee tools were used to access the affected accounts and that, for some, DMs were also accessed. The questions remained: who did this, and how did they gain access to the tools set they used?

The question of how was also answered by Twitter. The company says that a sophisticated "spear phishing attack" was used in order to gain access to the corporate network, allowing the hackers to learn about the internal processes. From there, they targeted the correct employees to gain access to the tools required to tweet the Bitcoin scam information, which ultimately led to $113,500 being stolen from people who fell for the trick.

This attack relied on a significant and concerted attempt to mislead certain employees and exploit human vulnerabilities to gain access to our internal systems. This was a striking reminder of how important each person on our team is in protecting our service.

The answer to who was also answered this week, care of the US Attorney's Office of the Northern District of California. According to the information shared by the Justice Department, 3 individuals have been charged with the hack. Mason Sheppard, a 19-year-old from the United Kingdon, Nima Fazeli, a 22-year-old from Orlando, Florida, and an unnamed 17-year-old (later identified as Graham Clark by local NBC Affiliate WFLA) from Tampa, Florida.

While the team is young, the youngest is claimed to have been the mastermind behind the attack. According to WFLA, Clark has had 30 felony charges filed against him,

one count of organized fraud, 17 counts of communications fraud, one count of fraudulent use of personal information with over $100,000 or 30 or more victims, 10 counts of fraudulent use of personal information and one count of access to computer or electronic device without authority.

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Halo Infinite game listing reveals new information about multiplayer

posted Saturday Aug 1, 2020 by Scott Ertz

<cite>Halo Infinite</cite> game listing reveals new information about multiplayer

As the release of the Xbox Series X creeps closer, Microsoft has been releasing more information about the console and its accompanying games. Of course, like all Microsoft hardware, one of the most important game franchises will be Halo. For the Xbox Series X, the first title will be Halo Infinite, which was shown off during the Games Showcase a few weeks ago. With people seeking more information about the games from the showcase, online stores have created game listings for this title. However, one such listing might have accidentally confirmed a rumor we have been following for a few weeks.

The game's listing contained some new, unrevealed information about the multiplayer aspect of the upcoming title, saying,

The legendary Halo series returns with the most expansive Master Chief campaign yet and a groundbreaking free-to-play multiplayer experience. Enjoy up to 120 FPS and greatly reduced load times creating seamless gameplay with Xbox Series X.

This passage, which has since been removed from the page, makes a big deal about two new features: 120 FPS and free-to-play multiplayer. Now, there are two ways to interpret this reveal - both being a major turn of events for the franchise. The first is that it will not require paying for Xbox Live to play the game. It could also mean that part of the game will be available to players without buying the game, similar to how Fortnite works. Either way, this is a major change for Halo and the revenue model for games and services on Xbox Series X.

Since the beginning of Xbox Live, there have been two tiers: Silver and Gold. The Silver tier has been free and offered some basic capabilities. Over the years, the capabilities for Silver have increased, but not by much. Gold has been a pay-for feature and opens up all of the Xbox Live capabilities. However, based on some information from the Microsoft Store, Xbox Live Gold will soon be free.

The first hint came when Microsoft discontinued the 12 month subscription. This was interpreted by some as a money grab from Microsoft, as the price per month is lowest for the 12 month option. However, we maintained that is was an indication that Xbox Live would go free with the Series X. Microsoft did not confirm nor deny this possibility. The listing for Halo Infinite has potentially added more fuel to our theory.

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In just one week, TikTok's future has changed to nearly impossible

posted Saturday Aug 1, 2020 by Scott Ertz

In just one week, TikTok's future has changed to nearly impossible

In just one week, TikTok's future has changed incredibly challenging to nearly impossible. Last week, the company was struggling to regain trust. This week, they are simply trying to survive through the weekend. This change for the company comes as the White House has taken direct aim at TikTok and parent company ByteDance. On Friday, President Trump told reporters on Air Force One that they were drafting an Executive Order to ban TikTok within the US.

The move comes at the same time that ByteDance was looking to unload the brand onto an American company. The idea being that, if TikTok were owned by an American tech company and the daily management and operations were managed within the borders of the US, it would change the perception of the brand within the government. This concept comes during a week where the US government has taken 4 of the biggest tech companies, Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google, to task for their own behavior. So, clearly being owned by a US company does not mean the US government will leave them alone.

The top contender for the purchase has been Microsoft. The fact that Microsoft wasn't part of the Congressional inquery this week could have made the sale a more calm possibility. The White House seems to have an affinity for Microsoft, with some encouragement being made for Microsoft to win the JEDI contract. But, the sale to Microsoft was also mentioned during the Friday conversation with reporters. President Trump said that he was not a fan of the idea of a sale of TikTok to Microsoft and would oppose it if it were to become a reality.

As a result on this comment, reports suggest that Microsoft and ByteDance have suspended their conversations about the sale. This doesn't mean that the deal is dead, but both companies involved are looking to the White House to seek additional information about what a sale could look like in regards to interaction with regulators.

So, this brings us back to the potential outright ban on the platform within the US. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said today that the ban is coming in the next few days. This would be a massive move, and potentially the biggest presidential move for Trump. However, there is some fight back against the potential of a ban. But, the concern doesn't come from where you might think, but instead from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). They claim that banning the app is an affront to free speech. Of course, if that were the case, it would mean that TikTok is the only way for people to commuinicate. The case is, it is far from the only way that people can communicate with one another. In fact, it is far from the only short form video platform.

As this upcoming week progresses, this scenario will continue to change. In the end, there is no telling what the future of TikTok will be, but chances are that it will not be the same on Friday as it is on Monday.

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TikTok is looking for ways to regain trust in Western countries

posted Sunday Jul 26, 2020 by Scott Ertz

TikTok is looking for ways to regain trust in Western countries

While teenagers flock to the service, Western cultures are beginning to look closely at TikTok. The reason is due to some of the moves the company has made over its existence. The Federal Trade Commission fined the company over child privacy violations dating back to the days of Musical.ly. Recently, it was revealed that the platform was scraping iPhone clipboards for an unknown reason. The company claimed it was an accident, but that wasn't a good enough explanation.

As a result, investigations into the brand, which is owned by a Chinese company with strong ties to the government. That relationship makes a lot of people, including government regulators, very uncomfortable, especially when the target demographic for the platform is teenagers and young adults. As some governments, including the US, have begun banning it in certain environments and mulling banning it entirely, as India already has, the company needs to find a way to address the issue.

One solution, which seems to be gianing some momentum, is selling the brand, or at least a controlling stake in the brand, to a US company. This would make the decisions of daily activity a US process, and oversight over behaviors could be moved to the States. With a move like this, regulatory concern would be minimized, though likely not eliminated. But, companies like Epic Games and Activision have minoroty investment from Tancent, another questionable Chinese company, but have no real oversight issues from the government.

Another attempt to woo over the US, in particular, is through a new Creator Fund. The company has put aside $200 million in an attempt to draw US creators to the platform. If the company can show enough support form US creators, perhaps it can stave off an outright ban from the Western countries, especially the US. To participate in the fund, the company says that creators will have to post original content regularly and have to meet TikTok Community Guidelines, which have also come under scrutiny. LGBT content can be banned under the guidelines, which has led many to question the relationship with the Chinese government.

While a loyal fanbase and creator community could potentially have an affect on public policy, national security will always outweigh public demand. TikTok has bigger issues to address than just getting some popular creators to make engaging content if they want to stay in the West.

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