The undercurrents of the future. A Medium publication about tech and science.

Sarah Jeong talks to Newton about the details of his deal, subscription journalism, and what makes email such a good media format

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Casey Newton

Casey Newton, The Verge’s longtime Silicon Valley editor and the creator of The Interface newsletter, is leaving the publication to start a newsletter on Substack called Platformer.

Newton, who started at The Verge in 2013, has published more than 570 issues of The Interface since it launched in October 2017. The newsletter currently boasts more than 20,000 subscribers. The Interface usually follows the themes of content moderation, disinformation, and the negative effects of social media on society. The focus is frequently on the omnipresent and ever-controversial Facebook, but the newsletter also covers companies like TikTok, Apple, Google, Amazon, and more.

During The Interface’s run, Newton also published multiple investigative pieces about the working conditions for platform content moderators, two of which were nominated for ASME awards. …

We’ve run out of letters to name our storms, and entered a brand-new, catastrophic era

A NOAA GOES-East satellite handout image of Hurricane Dorian (Cat. 5 storm) tracking towards the Florida taken Sept 1, 2019.
A NOAA GOES-East satellite handout image of Hurricane Dorian (Cat. 5 storm) tracking towards the Florida taken Sept 1, 2019.A NOAA GOES-East satellite handout image of Hurricane Dorian (Cat. 5 storm) tracking towards the Florida taken Sept 1, 2019.
Photo: NOAA/Getty Images

On Friday, one of the most remarkable moments in recent meteorological history opened a window to our future.

A strengthening swirl of clouds spinning in the central Atlantic earned the name Tropical Storm Wilfred — exhausting the list of 21 alphabetical names given to Atlantic tropical cyclones by the Miami-based National Hurricane Center on the earliest date in history. …

Trackers piggybacking on website tools leave some site operators in the dark about who is watching or what marketers do with the data

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Image: artJazz/Getty Images

By Aaron Sankin and Surya Mattu

Kara Zajac said SPART*A, a small nonprofit serving transgender military service members and veterans, helped her begin her transition while in the Navy. To give back, she volunteered to build the group’s website in her spare time after leaving the military — and kept her eye on a key value: privacy.

“I don’t track users,” Zajac said. “Not everyone in the military is wanting to be known for being trans. They might not be out yet. So any time we can protect privacy in that way, we try to do it.”

She said she only allowed three trackers on cookies from Twitter and Facebook that accompany their “like” buttons on the site, and one from Disqus, a commenting platform she got through a prepackaged website theme she bought off the internet for $59 to build the site. …

Letter From the Editor

Our interactions with technology are much more complex than many critics acknowledge

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An ant under the control of a “zombie fungus” — not to be confused with a person using Twitter. Photo: Penn State/Flickr

I’ve been reading a new book called The Twittering Machine. Written by Richard Seymour, it examines and complicates the clichéd narrative that social media companies are enacting a kind of mind control on a naive populace, forcing us to engage and post like we’re struck by the tendrils of a zombie fungus.

There’s no denying that social technology has changed us, and the book explains many of the ways it has done so, but technology is not some alien force: It shapes and is shaped by people. …

The Cheater’s Guide to Spotify

The platform is filled with search-optimized spammers, and there’s no end in sight

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Photo illustration sources: Kevin Liu; Kilito Chan; Thanapol Kuptanisakorn; EyeEm/Getty Images

Welcome to The Cheater’s Guide to Spotify, a series about the schemes that rack up streams, money, and infamy on the popular streaming service.

You’ve probably never heard of them, but Relaxing Music Therapy has had a pretty damn successful music career. At least, on Spotify.

This “artist” has more than 500,000 monthly listeners on the platform, all thanks to One Simple Trick: optimizing their name to show up prominently in Spotify’s search results.

Spotify is full of “artists” like this: Pro Sound Effects Library, On Hold Music, Yoga, Jazz Music Therapy for Cats, and Natural White Noise Best Nature Sounds for Sleeping, Stress Relief, Relaxation, Sound Therapy. …

Love endures even the craziest of circumstances

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Illustration courtesy of the author. Credit: JHU Sheridan Libraries/Levy/Gado/Getty Images

As the Covid-19 pandemic wears on, more and more of life has moved online — school, playdates, conferences, civic events, court proceedings, and even weddings. According to Wired, more than 450,000 couples were married between March and May 2020, at the height of coronavirus lockdowns. A whole industry has sprung up around Zoom weddings, with services like Wedfuly offering professionally produced events complete with virtual photographers, DJs, and the bandwidth to handle up to 1,000 guests.

Most people assume that online weddings are a new thing. But they’re not. The first online wedding occurred almost 150 years ago, in 1876.

As Tom Standage describes in his book The Victorian Internet, the telegraph was the hot, new technology of the time. …

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Illustrations: Erik Carter

Viral hate, election interference, and hacked accounts: inside the tech industry’s decades-long failure to reckon with risk

One spring day in 2014, Susan Benesch arrived at Facebook’s headquarters in Menlo Park and was ushered into a glass-walled conference room. She’d traveled from Washington, D.C., to meet with Facebook’s Compassion Research Team, a group that included employees, academics, and researchers whose job was to build tools to help users resolve conflicts directly, reducing Facebook’s need to intervene.

Benesch, a human rights lawyer, faculty associate at Harvard, and founder of the Dangerous Speech Project, a nonprofit studying the connection between online speech and real-world violence, worked closely with the Compassion Research Team, and used this meeting to raise a serious issue that had come to her attention: The extensive sectarian violence in Myanmar. …

Blame the iPhone

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Photo: Tomohiro Ohsumi/Getty Images

The latest Apple Watch, announced last week, is an iterative improvement over an already industry-leading smartwatch. It includes a blood oxygen sensor, on top of the host of other fitness sensors previous generations already included, and it pairs with a new Fitness+ service that aims to compete with Peloton’s popular memberships.

Google, meanwhile, may as well not exist in the wearables market. …

The new issue of Pattern Matching, OneZero’s weekly newsletter from senior writer Will Oremus, is out today. It takes a deep look at The Social Dilemma, a popular new documentary about social media from Netflix that… doesn’t get everything totally right.

Read it now:

Big Technology

A leading China reporter talks to Alex Kantrowitz about surveillance, internet censorship, and the internment of Muslims in Xinjiang

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Megha Rajagopalan

OneZero is partnering with Big Technology, a newsletter and podcast by Alex Kantrowitz, to bring readers exclusive access to interviews with notable figures in and around the tech industry.

This week, Kantrowitz sits down with BuzzFeed News reporter Megha Rajagopalan. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

To subscribe to the podcast and hear the interview for yourself, you can check it out on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Overcast.

China’s mass internment of Muslims in its Xinjiang region is one of the world’s most under-covered stories. The country has detained 1 million people there, putting them through a “reeducation” program meant to erase their language and culture, sometimes through forced labor and sterilization. …

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