Future Tense

Future Tense Newsletter: The Internet Is for Porn

Tumblr no more.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Ioana Cristiana on Unsplash.

Greetings, Future Tensers,

Since its inception over a decade ago, Tumblr has been a haven for pornographic and nude drawings, paintings, GIFs, photographs, and short videos. In just two weeks, however, that era may come to an end. Tumblr’s CEO announced on Monday that the beloved microblogging platform plans to ban all adult content (with some limited exceptions) in an attempt to crack down on harmful and exploitative posts.

It’s true that Tumblr does need to work to make sure that its services aren’t used to abuse minors and traffic in child pornography. But, as April Glaser argues, its move to ban nearly all adult content is an unnecessarily overreactive approach. It may also be a counterproductive one: eliminating one of the few remaining mainstream, relatively safe, and non-taboo online spaces find and share porn (and as Casey Fiesler and Brianna Dym write, the move decimates one of the few remaining social hubs for fandom).


Elsewhere on Future Tense, we’ve been sleuthing into cybercrime. Aaron Mak reports on recent revelations that hackers obtained access to thousands of National Republican Congressional Committee campaign emails in the months leading up to the midterm elections. Josephine Wolff argues that new legislation aimed at increasing penalties on companies that suffer massive data breaches—including jailing executives—may go too far. Jennifer Kang looks at how inmates targeted military members in a recently-uncovered massive catfishing sextortion scheme.

Other things we read between catching up with our new favorite Instagram influencers:

Resurrection: Peter Bebergal explores the world of people who restore antique automata, the mechanical ancestors to robots, and what it takes to restore and remake these widgets of the past.


Digital hype men: How did DJ Khaled and Floyd Mayweather’s cryptocurrency endorsements get them fined by the Securities and Exchange Commission? Aaron Mak explains.

Name and shame: Josephine Wolff details the Treasury Department’s new approach to stopping ransomware attacks like the ones that cost the City of Atlanta millions.

Team Tesla’s troubles: Continued reports of harassment, discrimination, unsafe working conditions keep coming out of Tesla. April Glaser questions what it will take for Elon Musk to care about making a change.


Human nature: J. Benjamin Hurlbut and Jason Scott Robert detail the story of the Chinese scientist who claims to have used CRISPR technology to gene edit human embryos, and argue that the discussion over the ethics of it should involve more than just the “rules.”

Backsliding: Four years ago, Central European University professor Austin Choi-Fitzpatrick thought technology would help bring freedom to Hungary. It didn’t happen, he explains.


Join Future Tense and some remarkable women leaders in aerospace for a lunchtime discussion about their experiences in the historically male-dominated field, and whether the gains that made them not-so-hidden figures can offer lessons for addressing the tech industry’s poor track record on diversity and inclusion. RSVP to attend here.

To quitting our Amazon obsession,

Anthony Nguyen

For Future Tense