Future Tense Newsletter: Twitter Lies, Alexa’s Police Reports, and Elon Musk’s Comedy Dreams

SpaceX and Tesla CEO Elon Musk.
BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/Getty Images

It’s an old adage that lies spread faster than the truth, and, according to a new study of rumors spread on Twitter, it seems the maxim holds on social media too. Not only did researchers find that false rumors in tweets, on average, get spread faster than those that turn out to be true, they also found that the bots aren’t to blame for the discrepancy. Slate’s Will Oremus offered up his theories about this duplicity online, and what it might mean for the platform.

Of course, some fake news can be funny—if we’re talking about satire. This week, “America’s finest news source,” the Onion, made the headlines after reports that Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has been poaching its staffers to launch a comedy project of his own. It wasn’t a surprising move, given that nearly one-eighth of Musk’s Twitter favs are articles from the comedic site. Though, frankly, we had assumed Musk’s Twitter has always existed as a satire project.

In other news that only sounds like satire: In the U.K., Amazon’s digital assistant Alexa has been partnering up with local police. (Slate’s Christina Bonnington promises it’s not as bad as it sounds.) And in New Zealand, Google founder Larry Page’s new startup Kitty Hawk unveiled an autonomous air taxi named Cora that, as Aaron Mak explains, probably has a wing up over its competition.

Other things we read while debating the merits of a smart toothbrush:

Not so ICE: Why are sanctuary cities contracting a security company that is handing over license plate data that could get their citizens deported? April Glaser investigates.

Qualcomm qualms: Josephine Wolff explains why the “national security concerns” being used to block the company’s merger with the Singapore-based Broadcom are more crusade than credible evidence.

Writing you can bank on: Science fiction may speculative, but Annalee Newitz explains how the genre uses current economic trends for world-building.

Life, liberty, and a right to repair?: More states are requiring tech companies to make it easier for consumers to repair their phones. Christina Bonnington argues this could actually benefit the bottom line at giants like Apple.

Enjoying the Bitcoin rap wars,

Tonya Riley

For Future Tense