Future Tense Newsletter: Prepare for Russia’s Infiltration of U.S. Elections to Get Worse

U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images

Greetings, Future Tensers,

Rushing to keep up with all this Russia news? Us too. On Friday, the Department of Justice announced the indictment of 12 of the country’s intelligence officers on charges related to their alleged interference with the 2016 U.S. presidential election. As April Glaser explains, the indictment sheds light on the mysterious “Guccifer 2.0”—that “lone hacker” who was really a group of Russian agents—and how, exactly, their meddling went down (hint: cryptocurrency played a role). As the Brennan Center’s Lawrence Norden argues, the indictments also revealed that Russia’s infiltration of U.S. election systems likely went deeper than we previously understood—and could get worse. With the 2018 midterms looming, he writes, “we need to get serious about preparing for even more damaging attacks.”

Though indictments often give us lots of new information, congressional hearings on tech issues often do not (looking at you, Zuckerberg). Tuesday’s House Judiciary Committee hearing on content-filtering practices of social media platforms wasn’t much of an exception. But as Aaron Mak reports, things did get interesting when a discussion of Russian disinformation campaigns led to a representative asking execs from Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter if they had any indication that intelligence agencies from any other foreign countries had used their platforms in similarly manipulative ways—and none seemed to have a real answer. And as the testimony about content moderation went on with few answers, the hearing’s YouTube livestream exemplified the very problem they were trying to address: Trolls flooded the video’s comments section with “racist, sexist, anti-Semitic, and conspiracy-stoking insults.”

Other things we read while nihilism ruled the internet:

Speaking my language: When it comes to communicating with extraterrestrial life, Kate Morgan explains, toddlers may make our best translators.

Pushing the limits: Facebook’s foray into TV-news programming should make us more skeptical of its argument that it’s not a media company, argues Morten Bay.

Facing the future: Will Oremus explains the logic behind Microsoft’s recent call for government regulation of face-recognition technology—the same technology the company is currently developing.

Stuck in the age of beepers: Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s worryingly outdated views on privacy are in serious need of an update, writes Margot E. Kaminski.

Can’t block blockchain: Think blockchain is all hype? Maybe not in the case of circumventing censorship in China, explains Spandana Singh.


• Join Julia Turner, Slate’s editor in chief, for the latest installment of our “My Favorite Movie” series. She’ll be hosting a free screening of Network at D.C.’s Landmark Theatres E Street Cinema on Wednesday, July 25, at 6:30 p.m. RSVP here—if you don’t, we’ll be “mad as hell.”

Losing an emoji spelling bee,

Mia Armstrong

For Future Tense

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