Future Tense

Future Tense Newsletter: GIFs, Gun-Violence Conspiracies, and the Rise of the World’s Worst Social Media App

 YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki speaks during the opening keynote address at the Google I/O 2017 Conference.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Greetings, Future Tensers,

Last week, the creator of Parks and Recreation tweeted a request to the National Rifle Association to take down a tweet featuring a GIF from the popular TV series, writing he would prefer his show not be used to promote the NRA’s “pro-slaughter agenda.” Though the message didn’t threaten any legal action, it made us curious: Could someone be sued for copyright infringement for using a GIF?

After the Parkland shooting, Twitter wasn’t the only playing field for content-moderation debates. YouTube, for example, spent this week struggling with a proliferation of conspiracy videos about the victims. While the site managed to remove a few of the most-viewed uploads, Slate’s April Glaser argues that its “ugly game of whack-a-mole” approach won’t be enough to stop the deluge of troubling content. Of course, online behavior isn’t always without offline consequences. Earlier this month, a man in Spain was sentenced to 2½ years in prison for publishing tweets that encouraged murdering women.


Amid the public backlash against the web’s most popular social media platforms, it seems some companies are jockeying to cash in on the discontent. This week, Vero, a social media app that’s trying to brand itself as a Facebook-Instagram-Snapchat-Twitter alternative, appeared to go viral. Will Oremus investigated why the company—which doesn’t seem to have a clear advantage over existing apps, a clear business plan, or even be fully functional—managed to break out.

Other things we read while brushing up on the history of Russian propaganda:

Unsmooth criminal: Jacob Brogan explains how Paul Manafort left an incriminating paper trail because he couldn’t figure out how to convert PDFs to Word files.

The dark side of dating apps: Apps like Grindr and Hornet have become essential to queer dating. But the burden of making them safer amid a global rise in violence against LGBTQ communities shouldn’t fall to users, argues Norman Shamas.


No refunds: The Federal Trade Commission settled with Venmo this week over charges that the company misled users about security, privacy, and money-transferring features on its popular payments app.

Crypto worldwide: This week, Venezuela finally made good on its promise to launch petro, the world’s first state-sponsored cryptocurrency. As Aaron Mak writes, it comes with a few major red flags.

Hands off the steering wheel: The state of California announced that it will allow autonomous vehicles on the road sans drivers beginning in April. Not everyone is thrilled with the decision.


Join Future Tense and Batman writer Tom King on Tuesday, March 6, in Washington for a screening of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. The film will be followed by a discussion between King and Slate’s Jacob Brogan. RSVP here.

Just another millennial stereotype,

Tonya Riley
For Future Tense

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