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US Senators Want Social Media Firms To Tell Users How Much Their Data Is Worth
Posted by News Fetcher on June 24 '19 at 07:51 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's tech-regulation department:
An anonymous reader shares a report from CNBC: A bipartisan team of senators introduced a bill Monday to require social media companies to disclose more information about the data they collect and monetize from their consumers. The Dashboard Act, which stands for Designing Accounting Safeguards to Help Broaden Oversight And Regulations on Data, aims to help consumers understand the price of using social media services that are free on face value. The bill seeks to require "commercial data operators" with more than 100 million monthly active users to disclose the type of data they collect from users and give them "an assessment of the value of that data," according to a press release announcing the bill. It also would require the companies to file an annual report disclosing third-party contracts involving data collection and give users the right to delete some or all of their collected data.

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Google's New Media Literacy Program Teaches Kids How To Spot Disinformation, Fake News
Posted by News Fetcher on June 24 '19 at 06:31 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's fun-for-the-whole-family department:
Google announced this morning it's expanding its two-year-old digital safety and citizenship curriculum for children, "Be Internet Awesome," to now include media literacy -- specifically, the ability to identify so-called "fake news" and other false content. "The company is launching six new media literacy activities for the curriculum that will help teach kids things like how to avoid a phishing attack, what bots are, how to verify that information is credible, how to evaluate sources, how to identify disinformation online, spot fake URLs, and more," reports TechCrunch. From the report: The courses offer kids not only instruction, but also a combination of activities and discussion starters aimed at helping them develop critical thinking skills when it comes to pursuing online resources. Its overall theme, the course material explains, is to help kids understand that the content they find online isn't necessarily true or reliable -- and it could even involve malicious efforts to steal their information or identity.

The kids learn how phishing works, why it's a threat, and how to avoid it. They then practice their anti-phishing skills by acting out and discussing reactions to suspicious online texts, posts, friend requests, pictures, and emails. In the following media literacy sections, kids learn what a credible source is, how to figure out what a source's motives are, and learn that "just because a person is an expert on one thing doesn't make them an expert on everything." In a related classroom activity, the kids pick a question related to something they've seen online or are learning in class and try to get the answers online, while figuring out if the sources are credible. They also learn to fact check credible sources with other credible sources as a way to look for a variety of sources.

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Apple Cites Irrelevant Spotify Subscription Stats In New Antitrust Defense
Posted by News Fetcher on June 24 '19 at 06:31 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's numbers-don't-lie department:
In response to Spotify's antitrust complaint, Apple claims that Spotify has greatly exaggerated how much money is being taken by the App Store. "Apple says that it's currently taking a 15 percent cut of subscription fees for around 680,000 Spotify subscribers, representing 0.5 percent of Spotify's total subscribers, and that Spotify is not paying a 30 percent cut on anything," reports The Verge, citing Der Spiegel. From the report: The takeaway message is supposed to be that Spotify is blowing its complaint way out of proportion, but those small numbers don't tell the full story -- they basically don't matter, because Spotify gave up on App Store subscriptions years ago. Spotify only offered subscriptions through the App Store between 2014 and 2016. That means subscription numbers have had years to dwindle. In 2016, Apple also reduced the cut it takes from subscriptions after they've been active for more than a year, bringing it down from 30 percent to 15 percent. That means Apple is only taking the lower number from Spotify, because Spotify hasn't signed up any new subscribers in years. The complaint that Spotify filed in March with the EU's antitrust arm says that Apple requires it to "pay a 30 percent tax on purchases" made through iOS. Even if Spotify isn't currently paying 30 percent because it stopped offering subscriptions through iOS in order to avoid the fee, that 30 percent tax is still true.

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Small Slug Blamed For Power Failure On Japan's High-Speed Rail Network
Posted by News Fetcher on June 24 '19 at 06:31 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's slime-in-the-line department:
Last month, Japan's high-speed rail network suffered a massive power outage that cancelled a total of 26 trains and delayed an estimated 12,000 passengers. The cause of the outage? A single, small slug. CNN reports: During a later inspection of the network's electrical equipment, the company's engineers discovered a dead slug, measuring about 2 to 3 centimeters (0.7 to 1.1 inches) long. According to a company spokesman, the slug had burned to death after touching an electrical cable leading to the mass power failure. Although it was discovered on May 30, shortly after the outage, the reason for the disruption wasn't revealed for more than a month.

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Scientists Discover a New Way To Provide Plants the Nutrients They Need To Thrive
Posted by News Fetcher on June 24 '19 at 05:11 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's new-and-improved department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University have discovered a new method for delivering key nutrients to plant roots -- without having to ensure they're present in the soil where the plants are growing. This method, described by researchers in detail in a new academic paper, would manage to improve efficiency to nearly 100% absorption of nutrients and pesticides delivered as nanoparticles (particles smaller than 50 nanometers across -- a human hair is about 75,000 nanometers wide, for context) sprayed onto the leaves of plants, which then make their way through the plant's internal vascular system all the way down into the root system. Agricultural professionals could also use this method to greatly improve delivery of plant antibiotics, making it easier and more cost-effective to treat plant diseases affecting crop yields. "It would be cheaper to delivery all nutrients and pesticides, too, because the big bump in efficiency of uptake by the plants means you can use much less of anything you want to deliver to achieve your desired effect," the report adds.

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Slashdot Asks: What Do You Do With Your Raspberry Pi?
Posted by News Fetcher on June 24 '19 at 05:11 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's possibilities-are-endless department:
The Raspberry Pi is a small single-board computer that's exploded in popularity over the years thanks to its wide array of uses. While it was originally designed to promote the teaching of basic computer science in schools and in developing countries, the computers have been adapted to be used for robotics, media, game and print servers, and even as replacements for traditional desktop PCs. That last one may be even more of a popular use case with the Raspberry Pi 4, the newest version announced today featuring a more powerful quad-core 64-bit ARM processor, up to 4GB of LPDDR4 SDRAM, and dual monitor support at resolutions up to 4K. For those of you with a Raspberry Pi, what do you use it for? Do you have any plans to upgrade to the $35 Raspberry Pi 4?

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German Regulator Says It Discovered New Illegal Software On Daimler Diesels
Posted by News Fetcher on June 24 '19 at 03:51 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's hide-and-seek department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Over the weekend, Germany's auto regulator told Daimler that it would have to recall 42,000 Mercedes-Benz diesel vehicles after the group discovered illegal software on the cars that would reduce the effectiveness of the emissions-control system. Daimler said Sunday night that it would take a one-time charge of hundreds of millions of euros against the upcoming quarter's earnings to deal with the new accusations, but it disputed the government regulator's determination that the software in question was illegal. According to the Wall Street Journal, Daimler plans to formally object to the claims.

Today, the Daimler vehicles in question are Mercedes-Benz-brand vehicles that are only sold in the EU. According to a WSJ source, the issue relates to a coolant thermostat in the cars that protects parts of the engine. The related software is found on vehicles made between 2012 and 2015. The WSJ says the type of coolant thermostat used on the diesel vehicles in question is generally found on cars with catalytic converters that don't use selective catalytic reduction, an emissions-reduction technique that uses urea to reduce nitrogen oxides to less-harmful forms. But the GLK 220 CDI 4MATIC Mercedes-Benz models that must be recalled do appear to use selective catalytic reduction. The latest regulatory action is reminiscent of the accusations lobbed against VW Group in 2015, where the U.S. EPA accused the automaker of including illegal software on its diesel vehicles to ensure that the diesels would pass emissions limits imposed by the U.S.

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When Myspace Was King, Employees Abused a Tool Called 'Overlord' To Spy on Users
Posted by News Fetcher on June 24 '19 at 03:51 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's truth-comes-out-eventually department:
During the social network's heyday, multiple Myspace employees abused an internal company tool to spy on users, in some cases including ex-partners, Motherboard reported on Monday. From the report: Named 'Overlord,' the tool allowed employees to see users' passwords and their messages, two former employees said. While the tool was originally designed to help moderate the platform and allow MySpace to comply with law enforcement requests, multiple sources said the tool was used for illegitimate purposes by employees who accessed Myspace user data without authorization to do so. "It was basically an entire backdoor to the Myspace platform," one of the former employees said of Overlord. (Motherboard granted five former Myspace employees anonymity to discuss internal Myspace incidents.) The abuse happened about a decade ago, closer to the height of the platform's popularity, according to multiple sources. In fall 2006, the platform signed up its 100 millionth user. Around this time, Myspace was the second most popular website in the U.S., and ranked higher than Google search. Further reading: MySpace Has Reportedly Lost All Photos, Videos and Songs Uploaded Over 12 Years Due To Data Corruption During a Server Migration Project (March, 2019).

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US Launches Cyber-Attack Aimed At Iranian Rocket and Missile Systems
Posted by News Fetcher on June 24 '19 at 02:31 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's tussle-continues department:
The US has responded to a recent rise in Iranian cyber-activity and the shooting of an unarmed drone last week by launching cyber-attacks against Iran's military IT systems. From a report: The cyber-attacks were carried out by US Cyber Command with the direct approval of US President Donald Trump, the Associated Press reported on Sunday, citing two inside sources, and confirming the report through a third Pentagon official. US Cyber Command targeted the Iran military's computer systems used to control some of the country's rocket and missile launchers. The systems are managed by Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), a branch of Iran's Armed Forces, which the US Presidency designated as a terrorist organization last year. The AP reported that the US cyber-attacks were the second go-to measure after President Trump backed off from launching a military strike against Iranian military and radar bases last week, on Thursday.

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How Verizon and a BGP Optimizer Knocked Large Parts of the Internet Offline Today
Posted by News Fetcher on June 24 '19 at 02:31 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's behind-the-scenes department:
Cloudflare issued a blog post explaining how Verizon sent a large chunk of the internet offline this morning after it wrongly accepted a network misconfiguration from a small ISP in Pennsylvania. The outages affected Cloudflare, Facebook, Amazon, and others. The Register reports: For nearly three hours, network traffic that was supposed to go to some of the biggest online names was instead accidentally rerouted through a steel giant based in Pittsburgh. More than 20,000 prefixes -- roughly two per cent of the internet -- were wrongly announced by regional U.S. ISP DQE Communications: this announcement informed the sprawling internet's backbone equipment to thread netizens' traffic through one of DQE's clients, steel giant Allegheny Technologies, a rerouting that was then, mindbogglingly, accepted and passed on to the world by Verizon, a trusted major authority on the internet's highways and byways. And so, systems around the planet automatically updated, and connections destined for Facebook, Cloudflare, and others, ended up going to Allegheny, which black holed the traffic.

< article continued at Slashdot's behind-the-scenes department >

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Microsoft's New Windows Terminal Is Now Available
Posted by News Fetcher on June 24 '19 at 01:11 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's about-time department:
You can now download a preview version of the new Windows Terminal app from the Store on Windows 10. From a report: Microsoft released this application on the evening of June 21 after a listing showed up earlier that day. After downloading the Windows Terminal app from the Store, you can take advantage of all the new features-- including tabs, finally! You can combine tabs from the traditional Command Prompt, Linux Bash instances, and PowerShell in the same window. It's a deeply customizable environment, too.

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Alphabet's Sidewalk Labs Unveils Its High-Tech 'City-Within-a-City' Plan for Toronto
Posted by News Fetcher on June 24 '19 at 01:11 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's it's-coming department:
Sidewalk Labs, Alphabet's smart city subsidiary, released its massive plan Monday to transform a slice of Toronto's waterfront into a high-tech utopia. From a report: Eighteen months in the making and clocking in at 1,524 pages, the plan represents Alphabet's first, high-stakes effort to realize Alphabet CEO Larry Page's long-held dream of a city within a city to experiment with innovations like self-driving cars, public Wi-Fi, new health care delivery solutions, and other city planning advances that modern technology makes possible. Previously, Sidewalk Labs called it "a neighborhood built from the internet up." But on Monday, Sidewalk Labs CEO Dan Doctoroff went a step further to describe it as "the most innovative district in the world."

The plan includes: Ten new buildings of mixed-use development consisting primarily of thousands of new residential units, as well as retail and office spaces, all made from mass timber. A proposal to extend the city's light-rail system to serve the new neighborhood. Redesigning streets to reduce car use and promote biking and walking. Installation of public Wi-Fi, in addition to other sensors to collect "urban data" to better inform housing and traffic decisions, for example. Proposal to reduce greenhouse gases by up to 89 percent. Building the new Canadian headquarters of Google on the western edge of Villiers Island. Further reading: Former Firefox VP on What It's Like To Be Both a Partner of Google and a Competitor via Google Chrome; Sidewalk Labs' 1,500-Page Plan for Toronto Is a Democracy Grenade.

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A Group of Microsoft Employees Is Fighting the Company's Political Action Committee
Posted by News Fetcher on June 24 '19 at 01:11 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's growing-tension department:
A group of more than 30 Microsoft employees is lobbying coworkers to stop donating to the company's political action committee in an effort to starve the PAC of funds, multiple Microsoft workers with knowledge of the efforts told OneZero. From a report: While Microsoft pitches itself as an inclusive and progressive company -- especially during Pride Month, with tweets and donations to LGBTQ+ causes -- employees who have donated to the PAC say they have no control over which candidates are being supported, meaning that they have no say when the PAC financially supports candidates whose views the employees don't want to support. Microsoft employees who spoke to OneZero -- on the condition of anonymity to avoid reprisals -- say that the PAC doesn't ask employees for input or supply avenues to suggest or control which candidates should be supported.

"Candidates that we dislike are those that advance policies contrary to the company's stated policies of diversity, inclusion, and growth mindset," one employee, who said they had persuaded about 10 others to stop donating to the PAC, told OneZero. The PAC is a voluntary, opt-in fund that's entirely supported by donations from more than 4,000 of Microsoft's 140,000 employees, according to a 2015 blog post. The goal of Microsoft's "MSPAC" is to "support and encourage the election to federal offices of persons who support the needs of business in a free and healthy economy," according to its website. In other words, the PAC exists to extend Microsoft's political influence and serve its business interests. It also brings prominent speakers to campus for employees who donate to MSPAC, and occasionally opens those events up to nondonors.

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Apple Releases First Public Betas of macOS Catalina, iOS 13 and iPadOS
Posted by News Fetcher on June 24 '19 at 11:51 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's age-of-beta-updates department:
Apple today seeded the first beta versions of upcoming macOS Catalina update, iOS 13 update, and iPadOS update to its public beta testing group, giving non-developers a chance to try out the software ahead of their fall public release. Beta testers who have signed up for Apple's beta testing program will be able to download the macOS Catalina beta through the Software Update mechanism in System Preferences after installing the proper profile. Those who want to be a part of Apple's beta testing program can sign up to participate through the beta testing website, which gives users access to iOS, macOS, and tvOS betas. Similarly, beta testers who have signed up for Apple's beta testing program will receive the iOS 13 beta update over-the-air after installing the proper certificate on an iOS device. New features in macOS Catalina update includes: macOS Catalina eliminates the iTunes app, which has been a key Mac feature since 2001. In Catalina, iTunes has been replaced by Music, Podcasts, and TV apps. The new apps can do everything that iTunes can do, so Mac users aren't going to be losing any functionality, and device management capabilities are now handled by the Finder app. macOS Catalina has a useful new Sidecar feature, designed to turn the iPad into a secondary display for the Mac. For those with an Apple Watch set up to unlock the Mac, there's now an option to approve security prompts in Catalina by tapping on the side button of the watch. Macs with a T2 chip in them also support Activation Lock, making them useless to thieves much as it does on the iPhone. There's a new Find My app that lets you track your lost devices, and previously, this functionality was only available via iCloud on the Mac. There's even a new option to find your devices even when they're offline by leveraging Bluetooth connections to other nearby devices, something that's particularly handy on the Mac because it doesn't have a cellular connection. For developers, a "Project Catalyst" feature lets apps designed for the iPad be ported over to the Mac with just a few clicks in Xcode and some minor tweaks. Apple's ultimate goal with Project Catalyst is to bring more apps to the Mac.

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Ubuntu Reverses Decision, Says It Will Continue To Support 32-bit Packages
Posted by News Fetcher on June 24 '19 at 11:51 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's change-of-heart department:
Canonical has issued a statement on Ubuntu's 32-bit future, saying it will continue to build and maintain a 32-bit archive going forward. From a report: Of course, there was some negativity surrounding the decision -- as is common with everything in the world today. In particular, developers of WINE were upset, since their Windows compatibility layer depends on 32-bit, apparently. In a statement, Canonical said: "Thanks to the huge amount of feedback this weekend from gamers, Ubuntu Studio, and the WINE community, we will change our plan and build selected 32-bit i386 packages for Ubuntu 19.10 and 20.04 LTS. We will put in place a community process to determine which 32-bit packages are needed to support legacy software, and can add to that list post-release if we miss something that is needed. Community discussions can sometimes take unexpected turns, and this is one of those. The question of support for 32-bit x86 has been raised and seriously discussed in Ubuntu developer and community forums since 2014. That's how we make decisions."

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Dutch Telephone Outage Takes Out Nation's Emergency Number
Posted by News Fetcher on June 24 '19 at 10:32 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's stranger-things department:
A major telephone outage hit the Netherlands on Monday, taking down the country's emergency number and leaving many businesses and municipalities unreachable by phone. From a report: Police sent officers onto the streets so that people could approach them for emergency help and issued an alternative emergency phone number an hour after the outage began around 4 p.m. (1400 GMT). "We're appealing to everybody who wants to report an emergency and needs help to ... go onto the street. Police officers with walkie-talkies are taking to the streets as much as possible so they can be spoken to," police spokeswoman Suzanne van de Graaf told national broadcaster NOS. Telecom provider KPN reported on its website that the nationwide outage affected both landlines and mobile services. It said work was underway to find a solution.

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Bernie Sanders Proposes Forgiving the Student Debt of 45 Million Americans
Posted by News Fetcher on June 24 '19 at 09:11 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's how-about-that department:
Sen. Bernie Sanders announced a plan on Monday to erase the country's $1.6 trillion outstanding student loan tab, intensifying the higher education policy debate in the 2020 Democratic presidential primary. From a report: The Democratic presidential candidate's legislation -- dubbed "The College for All Act" -- will release all 45 million Americans from their student debt and be paid for with a new tax on Wall Street transactions. The proposal goes further than fellow Democratic candidate Elizabeth Warren's plan, which caps student debt forgiveness at $50,000 and offers no relief to borrowers who earn more than $250,000. Outstanding education debt in the U.S. has eclipsed credit card and auto debt. Today the average college graduate leaves school $30,000 in the red, up from $10,000 in the 1990s, and 28% of student loan borrowers are in delinquency or default. Sanders' plan would make two- and four-year public colleges and universities tuition- and debt-free. Trade schools and apprenticeship programs would be tuition-free, as well.

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US Considers Requiring 5G Equipment For Domestic Use Be Made Outside China
Posted by News Fetcher on June 24 '19 at 09:11 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's tussle-continues department:
The Trump administration is examining whether to require that next-generation 5G cellular equipment used in the U.S. be designed and manufactured outside China [Editor's note: the link may be paywalled; alternative source], WSJ reports, citing people familiar with the matter. The move could reshape global manufacturing and further fan tensions between the countries. From the report: A White House executive order last month to restrict some foreign-made networking gear and services due to cybersecurity concerns started a 150-day review of the U.S. telecommunications supply chain. As part of that review, U.S. officials are asking telecom-equipment manufacturers whether they can make and develop U.S.-bound hardware, which includes cellular-tower electronics as well as routers and switches, and software outside of China, the people said. The conversations are in early and informal stages, they said. The executive order calls for a list of proposed rules and regulations by the 150-day deadline, in October; so, any proposals may take months or years to adopt.

The proposals could force the biggest companies that sell equipment to U.S. wireless carriers, Finland's Nokia and Sweden's Ericsson, to move major operations out of China to service the U.S., which is the biggest market in the $250 billion-a-year global industry for telecom equipment and related services and infrastructure. There is no major U.S. manufacturer of cellular equipment. U.S. officials have long worried that Beijing could order Chinese engineers to insert security holes into technology made in China. They worry those security holes could be exploited for spying, or to remotely control or disable devices.

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NASA Rover on Mars Detects Puff of Gas That Hints at Possibility of Life
Posted by News Fetcher on June 24 '19 at 09:11 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's keeping-hopes-alive department:
The Curiosity mission's scientists picked up the signal this week, and are seeking additional readings from the red planet. From a report: Mars, it appears, is belching a large amount of a gas that could be a sign of microbes living on the planet today. [Editor's note: the link may be paywalled; alternative source.] In a measurement taken on last Wednesday, NASA's Curiosity rover discovered startlingly high amounts of methane in the Martian air, a gas that on Earth is usually produced by living things. The data arrived back on Earth on last Thursday, and by Friday in the week, scientists working on the mission were excitedly discussing the news, which has not yet been announced by NASA. "Given this surprising result, we've reorganized the weekend to run a follow-up experiment," Ashwin R. Vasavada, the project scientist for the mission, wrote to the science team in an email that was obtained by The Times.

The mission's controllers on Earth sent new instructions to the rover on Friday to follow up on the readings, bumping previously planned science work. The results of these observations are expected back on the ground later today. People have long been fascinated by the possibility of aliens on Mars. But NASA's Viking landers in the 1970s photographed a desolate landscape. Two decades later, planetary scientists thought Mars might have been warmer, wetter and more habitable in its youth some 4 billion years ago. Now, they are entertaining the notion that if life ever did arise on Mars, its microbial descendants could have migrated underground and persisted.

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How One VC Firm Amassed a 24% Stake in Slack Worth $4.6 Billion
Posted by News Fetcher on June 24 '19 at 07:51 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's how-about-that department:
An anonymous reader shares a report: Stewart Butterfield loved the game, but not enough people agreed with him. He spent two years and raised roughly $11 million to build an online adventure game called Glitch that featured garrulous, blue-headed creatures and milk-drunk butterflies. Once people had a chance to play it and Butterfield could track the numbers, the verdict was clear: Glitch was a flop. "There was this night where I just lost faith," Butterfield said in a podcast interview. He decided in 2012 that it was game over. Butterfield made plans to shut down the company and give the remaining money back to his investors.

Andrew Braccia, a partner at venture capital firm Accel, wouldn't accept the refund. He and other investors urged Butterfield to keep the remaining $5 million and try something else. That turned into Slack Technologies, the maker of corporate chat software that went public Thursday. At the close of trading, Slack's market value was $19 billion. Accel invested about $200 million in Slack over seven years, largely driven by Braccia's unwavering faith in Butterfield. As of the stock debut, Accel held 24% of the company, the biggest VC stake in a newly public unicorn in recent history. Those shares are worth $4.6 billion today.

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