As of today, community members and diamond moderators across the Stack Exchange network are commencing a general moderation strike in protest of bad policy and worse treatment from Stack Overflow, Inc leadership:
- Moderation Strike: Stack Overflow, Inc. cannot consistently ignore, mistreat, and malign its volunteers
- There is also an open letter to Stack Overflow, Inc. here.
This post is here to explain the situation, and as you read it, I invite you to consider whether you might join the strike.
(Stack Overflow, Inc. is the company that owns and runs the Stack Exchange network.)
In February, RPG Stack Exchange voted overwhelmingly to ban AI- and ChatGPT-generated answers: Should this stack ban ChatGPT?. We have already seen and removed multiple such posts as a community.
Many other communities also simultaneously banned AI-generated content, beginning with Stack Overflow and including Ask Ubuntu, Academia, and others. You can see a full list of discussions here. Stack Overflow, Inc. community managers & developers even formally assisted in supporting this policy by e.g. creating a help page.
Last week on May 29th, Stack Overflow, Inc. leadership dictated a new policy to diamond moderators in private: they were forbidden from deleting AI-generated content, or suspending users for posting AI-generated content, under strict guidance that has not been made public. A post was made to Meta SE the next day (What is the network policy regarding AI Generated content?) describing a public and less specific version of the guidance. Diamond moderators are bound by the moderator agreement to follow these instructions and can lose their diamonds for noncompliance.
Essentially, SO Inc leadership has instructed that AI content is now tacitly permitted across the network, contradicting all prior guidance from staff. This is in spite of community consensus, in spite of private protests by moderators, and in spite of the harm AI content will cause. Further, the very same moderator agreement that binds moderators also binds SO Inc to give staff previews and opportunity to provide feedback on policies like this—a covenant SO Inc disregarded and violated. Moderators are even bound to follow rules that remain confidential, meaning moderators are forbidden from talking with us openly about the rules they must follow.
SO Inc's justification for this new policy in their meta post is based on suggesting GPT detectors have poor accuracy rates (but with no citation of how accurate moderators have been in exercising their judgment and expertise moderating AI content). It further makes a broad accusation of moderators being racially prejudiced in moderation (“we also suspect that there have been biases for or against residents of specific countries”), which is a major claim that warrants major evidence but was given none.
Beyond the harm this policy will cause the network, this situation is an extraordinary new low in the working relationship between the community and SO Inc leadership, one that apparently represents complete disregard for the community's will or even its expertise in the harm leadership's own policies will cause.
What are we doing in response?
Stack Exchange community members and diamond moderators have organised a strike in protest not only of the policy, but of the conditions and treatment under which it was handed down. This strike calls for a cessation of moderation and curation activities: no casting or handling flags, no reviews, no closing/unclosing, no deleting/undeleting, no voting or posting (except on matters of the strike of course), etc. Smoke Detector, the community-run anti-spam bot, is also shutting down for the duration of the strike.
If you find this situation unacceptable as I do, I invite you to sign the open letter and join the strike.
Due to a limitation in Stack Exchange's own authentication system, you may need to create a Stack Overflow account in order to sign the letter. Some of us might dislike having to do that, but appropriately enough to the topic at hand, as nitsua60 comments this is a system limitation we've been asking SO Inc to address for years. You can alternately contact mousetail, the person in charge of the letter (start a new room).
For those wondering, this post cannot be featured because Stack Exchange leadership is de-featuring all content referencing the strike.
Update for August 4th, 2023
Negotiations between strike representatives and staff have been proceeding for the past month and a half.
- The outcome of those negotiations is catalogued here: Moderation strike: Results of negotiations
- A general timeline of negotiations is catalogued here: https://meta.stackexchange.com/a/390704/152515
- Groups involved in the strike are currently discussing whether the outcome of these negotiations are sufficient to end their strike request (see update at top): Moderation Strike update: Data dumps, choosing representatives, GPT data, and where we’re holding
Update for August 7th, 2023
The general call to strike has concluded today, with involved bodies voting to lift the strike and resume normal business again on the basis of the outcomes of negotiations: Moderation strike: Conclusion and the way forward