An Anti-Censorship “Freedom Phone” Was Just Revealed. Here Are My Thoughts.

I think my typical audience can appreciate that the sad state of social media and the tech industry is such that there is a strong unfulfilled demand for a device whose seller markets it as respecting a basic fundamental human right.

But that’s not as far as it goes when it comes to what’s sad about the Freedom Phone, which is being offered by a man who got rich by buying Bitcoin when it was cheap. As for me, I majored in Electronics Technology outside of mainland China.

But I learned a few things, and started storing value in crypto. Let’s see what Mr. Rich-Boy who already did so has to offer the pro-freedom world.

As it turns out, it’s not a whole lot. He’s taking some relatively-cheap Pixel phones, installed with GrapheneOS, and preloaded them with a few select apps, sans the typical Google stuff. One of the offerings is a Pixel 4 XL 64GB, starting at $489.

You can verify by looking it up, but it’s a snap to find the same phone for under $200. But hey, if you’re looking to justify the markup, you can look at the pre-installed OS and apps as a service for if you don’t want to do it yourself, and learn to do so, if need be. If you’re really being threatened with censorship by big tech, would it really hurt to learn?

Noteworthy is that the Freedom Phone offers an “uncensored app store”. If the app store were to be completely uncensored, what’s to stop a developer from offering an app with malware? And if the app were removed, the developer could call the Freedom Phone out for not being “uncensored”. Then there’s the question of whether “uncensored” means that the store will remove illegal content.

If you’re already paranoid, then you’ll likely already understand the concept of a “honeypot”, which is what you have when certain software is marketed towards a target group because that software has a hidden capacity for monitoring the people who use it. It’s an app such as this which was behind a massive sting operation which saw the arrest of over 800 people. Considering this, it’s understandable that even a free-speech advocate might consider the Freedom Phone to be kinda sus.

Hold on a sec, check out that logo:

It looks like it says, “Reedom Phones”. If you’re going to “ree” over the software on your cheap phone, perhaps it’s appropriate. Otherwise, Freedom Phones might want to change up their logo.

When one goes overboard with the privacy protection stuff, that in itself can put a person on the map. After all, most people wouldn’t run an obscure computer with an unusual OS, running Tor and encrypting all their files unless they had something to hide. If what you’re doing requires a huge pile of over-the-top privacy measures, what you’re doing might be so illegal that it may be a solid strategic move to do it from another continent.

By the looks of it, Freedom Phones isn’t offering it’s own carrier service or running its own cell towers. Because of this, your phone can still be denied service by your carrier, whose SIM card you install into it. What’s more, because your carrier can determine your location by triangulating your position using cell towers (yet another thing that Edward Snowden was right about), your phone can still be used to determine your general location. And speaking of your cellular provider, you probably provided them with oodles of personally-identifiable information for the purposes of identity verification when setting up your account.

Having expressed due skepticism, one thing I can appreciate about the Freedom Phone’s reveal is just how hard it has legacy media tripping over itself to write up whatever hit pieces they can about it. It seems they can agree on one point concerning it:

The Daily Beast, for example, is among those pointing out that the phone was made in China, as though that’s an argument against the phone. Let’s be honest here, just how many American tech companies make their own tech? The world would have surprisingly little without the roughly 1 billion slaves laboring under the Chinese Communist Party. Not that The Daily Beast is being racist against the Chinese, by the way.

PC Magazine is on the bandwagon with the stock response that it was made in China, as though they themselves see a problem with Chinese manufacturing. Do you see a problem with Chinese manufacturing, PC Magazine? Say it.

Even Business Insider is parroting the “but it’s made in China” spin, as though that’s an answer to any question anyone is asking about the Freedom Phone. If you have a problem with a tech device just because it has components that were manufactured in China, I welcome you to research the tech products you already have to see how far a boycott would last you.

This again.

Check out how hip and anti-establishment HotHardware is being by saying the exact same thing the corporate mainstream information media is saying, days after they say the same thing. There’s no way to stick it to the man quite like dissing a platform poised to give ordinary people a voice that cannot be censored by the establishment. Don’t you feel so hip!

While some of the concerns are valid, the left is being sudden with their disdain of Chinese manufacturing. I don’t expect them to go as far as boycotting Chinese devices. After all, they’d have a much harder time masturbating without a glowing display screen to show them pictures of cartoon ponies.

Based on what I’ve seen so far, I don’t recommend Freedom Phone. If free speech online is a big enough concern for you, I’d instead recommend getting a reasonably-priced phone you can install GrapheneOS onto, then attempt it yourself once you know what you’re doing.

If you’re still on the fence, it might be a good idea to hold off until you see some reviews from those who’ve actually used the product. The reviews themselves might be entertaining.

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