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:

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.)

What's happening?

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.

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

  • 7
    \$\begingroup\$ Thank you for taking a stand on this. Signed. \$\endgroup\$
    – G_B
    Commented Jun 5, 2023 at 11:34
  • 10
    \$\begingroup\$ Not that anyone would doubt greener, but I'll chime in to say that all her characterizations of the behind-the-scenes/private/confidential moderator and staff interactions are accurate and (IMO) fair. \$\endgroup\$
    – nitsua60 Mod
    Commented Jun 5, 2023 at 12:03
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Re: "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." On the linked petition, a warning notes: "Once authentication is complete, your access token is discarded and no access to your account is possible." Does your account mean the newly-created SO account or our pre-existing SE account? If we sign the petition, will we henceforth be unable to log in to our account on rpg stacks? That is, does signing support for the strike effectively impose the strike on us? \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    Commented Jun 5, 2023 at 16:47
  • 9
    \$\begingroup\$ @Kirt - You will be able to access your account as normal, but the open letter will no longer be able to access it. \$\endgroup\$
    – Mithical
    Commented Jun 5, 2023 at 16:48
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ It took me a moment to understand why the last two links looked odd to me, but as I scrolled down through the edits and saw the 'featured' strike out by Phillipe, the light came on. Thanks for including that link. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 7, 2023 at 18:08
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ FWIW with my mostly inactive self, I fully support the strike. It's insane how the company keeps disrespecting the community, and keeps breaking their promises to do better. \$\endgroup\$
    – Gloweye
    Commented Jun 9, 2023 at 9:59
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Thank you for posting this and explaining what has been going on for those of us who do not check in every day. I do believe the company name is "Stack Exchange, Inc.", not "Stack Overflow, Inc.", at least that is what they have in the footer, but maybe there are two organizations involved? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 11, 2023 at 6:00
  • \$\begingroup\$ @GroodytheHobgoblin I might have gotten it wrong, they've changed it back and forth in the past. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 11, 2023 at 10:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Groody - please see footnote 1 on the Meta.SE strike notice \$\endgroup\$
    – Mithical
    Commented Jun 11, 2023 at 10:16
  • 4
    \$\begingroup\$ @Mithical, thank you, that explains it perfectly. I'll reproduce it here for other browser's convenience: "While we’re aware that the legal name of the company is “Stack Exchange, Inc.”, the name “Stack Overflow” is more recognizable, and thus used in the open letter. The “Inc.” serves to demonstrate that our concerns lie with the corporate entity, and not the site itself, its moderators, or individual employees." \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 11, 2023 at 10:42
  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ Strike update (MSE): Moderation Strike update: Data dumps, choosing representatives, GPT data, and where we’re holding \$\endgroup\$
    – Gloweye
    Commented Jun 12, 2023 at 6:34
  • 5
    \$\begingroup\$ Update to update. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    Commented Jun 28, 2023 at 0:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ I decided against making a follow-up post about the negotiation result because I don't yet know where I stand in that regard. \$\endgroup\$
    – Akixkisu
    Commented Aug 3, 2023 at 10:51
  • 4
    \$\begingroup\$ Relevant: Moderation strike: Results of negotiations \$\endgroup\$
    – VLAZ
    Commented Aug 3, 2023 at 10:59


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