Future Tense Newsletter: Here’s What’s Happening With 3D-Printed Guns

Software engineer Travis Lerol takes aim with an unloaded Liberator handgun in the backyard of his home on July 11, 2013.
Software engineer Travis Lerol takes aim with an unloaded Liberator handgun in the backyard of his home on July 11, 2013.
AFP/Getty Images

Greetings, Future Tensers,

On Tuesday, a federal judge temporarily prevented the uploading and online distribution blueprints for 3D-printed guns—just hours before the Texas-based group Defense Distributed was expected to publish a DIY guide to printing an untraceable firearm. This injunction came despite President Trump’s contention, Aaron Mak reports, that the selling of the so-called ghost guns “doesn’t seem to make much sense!” Meanwhile, the founder and director of Defense Distributed, Cody Wilson, outlined his vision of a “WikiLeaks for guns” with Slate’s April Glaser and Will Oremus on If Then in March. He maintains that he doesn’t sell guns, he simply “publish[es] the plans for free into the public domain.”

Also on Tuesday, Facebook announced that it removed 32 pages and accounts from Facebook and Instagram related to a “coordinated disinformation campaign,” April Glaser reports. And while there’s not yet a definitive link between the removed accounts and Russian disinformation operations, Facebook says it’s well-aware that the 2018 midterms are the perfect occasion for Russians and “other bad actors” to abuse its platform.

And speaking of preparing for the worst, companies selling cyberinsurance policies say they are a must-have for financial institutions. But, Josephine Wolff writes, there are questions about what those cyberinsurance policies actually cover—and if the experience of Virginia’s National Bank of Blacksburg is any indicator, the answers may be shockingly disappointing. After the bank lost an estimated $2.4 million from two data breaches, its insurer wrote a check for only $50,000. Now the bank is suing, and its lawsuit illuminates the consequences of what Wolff calls “an industry rife with ambiguous, overlapping policies that customers can barely understand until it’s too late.”

Other things we read while visiting the Ecuadorian Embassy (or was it Biosphere 2?):

Ethical A.I.: The United Kingdom wants to lead the world in “crafting ethical policies” surrounding artificial intelligence. Joelle Renstrom examines whether that’s actually possible.

Lengthening learning: As automation and artificial intelligence change the job market, argues Jeffrey Selingo, on-demand education can help ensure lower-skilled workers aren’t left behind.

Shadow scoop: President Trump tweeted last week that he would investigate shadow banning on Twitter, calling the practice “discriminatory and illegal.” Amy Pollard explains what you should know about the platform’s most recent content-filtering kerfuffle.

Banning bind: Facebook’s 30-day ban of Alex Jones will empower the far-right conspiracy theorist and amplify his cries of conservative bias, writes April Glaser.

Mismatched mugs: Bias in facial recognition tools got personal for 28 members of Congress last week, Aaron Mak reports. Now, some are calling for increased oversight of the nascent tech.

Finally, we’re all thinking about those affected by the deadly fires currently raging across the Western U.S. Here’s how to track those tragic fires, and how you can retrieve your contacts if you lose your phone in the blaze or another emergency.

Definitely an “emotional Jenga tower,”

Mia Armstrong

For Future Tense

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