Future Tense

Future Tense Newsletter: How Not to Run an Election

social media platforms as broadcasters
Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by Getty Images Plus.

Greetings, Future Tensers,

Between the mission gaps of the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI, the lack of security clearances for state and local officials, and plain budgetary shortfalls, states have an uphill job when it comes to securing their election systems against the next cyberattack. Something else that doesn’t help? The feds’ secrecy about infiltration attempts. State officials and the public only recently learned that Russian hackers were able to penetrate voting databases in two Florida counties, and there is now a federal investigation on whether voter rolls in North Carolina may have also been hacked. And keeping people on the frontlines—those best equipped to defend against similar attacks—in the dark has serious consequences, argues Jessica Brandt. She warns how continued lack of coordination and sloppy messaging from the federal government could risk doing Russia’s election interference work for it in 2020.


While we continue to worry about Russian hackers, elsewhere at Future Tense, we’ve been looking at attempts to combat hate speech, harassment, and disinformation on social media. Chip Brownlee explains why YouTube’s most recent crackdown on hate speech comes at a particularly curious time for the platform. April Glaser argues that bringing back the thinking behind the pre-Reagan-era golden age of radio and TV broadcast regulation could help us formulate better ways to get social media platforms like Facebook and YouTube to serve the public interest. And David Kaye, the U.N.’s special rapporteur on freedom of expression, explains how the clash over regulating online speech goes well beyond the U.S. and Europe—and how social media companies can get their act together.


Other things we read between playing Dwarf Fortress:

Radioactive issue: Someday, the U.S. will have to stop putting off the long-term management of its serious nuclear waste problem. And a recent move by the Department of Energy might be a step in the right direction.

Virtual security: Should your door locks be smart? Justin Peters argues that maybe your ability to enter your home shouldn’t depend on the cloud.


One-star reviews: Yelp may like to compare itself to Wikipedia. But a new documentary highlights one major difference: fairness.

Back to the future: Remember MiniDiscs? Neither did we—until a recent hack of old Radiohead recordings took us back to the cutting-edge of ’90s music tech.

Facing it: How worried should you be about the hack of Customs and Border Protection data, which reportedly compromised tens of thousands of photos of license plates and travelers’ faces?

Not for all: The most commonly prescribed hormone therapy drug for transgender women has some controversial side effects—and demonstrates how our medical system shouldn’t insist on one-size-fits-all.

To being swarmed by a cloud of ladybugs,

Anthony Nguyen

For Future Tense

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

Future Tense is a partnership of Slate, New America, and Arizona State University that examines emerging technologies, public policy, and society.