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Future Tense Newsletter: Twitter, Only Without the Nazis

Greetings, Future Tensers,


From white nationalists and Russian bots to Trump’s tweets and government data collection, social media tends to be the bane of everyone’s digital existence these days. But what if we could have a platform that could evade both the surveillance state and the Nazis?

That’s what Eugene Rochko is attempting to do with his decentralized social network, Mastodon. He talked with Will Oremus and April Glaser for our If Then podcast last week to explain how Mastodon’s federated nature and strong community content moderation teams make it stand out as a Twitter alternative.

Elsewhere on Future Tense, we’ve been covering other instances of tech gone wrong. Mike Godwin wrote about the Australian government’s disastrous foray into creating opt-out digital health records for its citizens. Charles Duan and Jeffrey Westling explained how the court order blocking the online sharing of the Defense Distributed 3D-printed gun schematic represents a fundamental misunderstanding of the internet and human nature. And Janelle Shane guides us on how to tell when people are pretending to be bots—and why humans are masquerading as A.I. in the first place.

Other things we read while trying out the successor to the Super Soaker:


Mixed metaphors: Digital gold. Tulip bulbs. Rai stones. Miners. Transparent piggy banks. Rachel Withers tries to hunt down the best analogy for cryptocurrency.

15 seconds of fame: Heather Schwedel explains Gen Z’s latest sensation, TikTok, and why it’s a world of video worth exploring.

Plant-based charge: While the smartphone industry isn’t exactly known for being the most environmentally friendly, one company is attempting to lead the charge for eco-friendly gadgets.

Done their research: Reddit power users tend to be recognized wherever they post, and PoppinKREAM has earned this designation for frequent, extensive, and well-sourced analysis of corruption in the Trump administration. Justin Peters introduces us to the citation-loving anonymous poster.


To friend or not to friend: Many of us are used to getting emails and texts from our bosses at all hours, but what happens when they want to be in your digital life outside of work hours too?

Anthony Nguyen
For Future Tense

Future Tense is a partnership of Slate, New America, and Arizona State University.