Breaking News: Massive Protest Erupts Across Stack Overflow and Stack Exchange Network

K. C. Sabreena Basheer 07 Jun, 2023 • 4 min read

On June 5th, 2023, a wave of frustration and discontent swept through the Stack Overflow and Stack Exchange communities as moderators, curators, contributors, and users united in a historic general moderation strike. This strike is a bold statement against recent and forthcoming changes implemented by Stack Exchange, Inc. These changes have sparked outrage and concern among the platform’s dedicated volunteers.

An Open Letter to Stack Exchange, Inc.: A Plea for Change

In an open letter addressed to Stack Exchange, Inc., the community’s collective voice demands immediate attention. As of writing this article, over 850 volunteer moderators, contributors, and users have signed the letter. These passionate individuals have tirelessly dedicated their time & effort to the growth and success of Stack Overflow & Stack Exchange networks. They now feel their concerns aren’t being heard and have declared initiating a general moderation strike as a last resort.

Moderators, curators, contributors, and users have declared a general moderation strike across Stack Overflow and Stack Exchange communities.

A Cry for Acknowledgement: Our Concerns Fall on Deaf Ears

The discontent among the striking moderators and users stems from the alarming dismissal of their concerns and the lack of meaningful engagement from Stack Overflow, Inc. Despite their attempts to bring about change through proper channels, their efforts have been consistently ignored. They had no alternative but to take this drastic action.

Guardians of Quality Information: Protecting the Core Mission

With over a decade of care and voluntary service, the moderators and contributors remain steadfast in their belief in the core mission of the Stack Exchange network. Providing a repository of high-quality information in the form of questions and answers has always been their primary objective. However, recent actions taken by Stack Overflow, Inc. threaten to undermine this noble goal.

The Devastating Impact of AI-generated Answers

One of the primary concerns the striking community members raised revolves around the new policy restricting moderators from removing AI-generated content, except in extremely limited circumstances.

This policy effectively opens the floodgates for a deluge of AI-generated answers, disregarding the established community consensus on such content. Consequently, inaccurate information, known as “hallucinations,” and plagiarism run rampant on the platform, eroding trust in Stack Overflow.

Overriding Consensus: Disregarding Community Input

Stack Overflow, Inc.’s recent policies have raised further alarms within the community. By making changes without consulting the affected communities, overriding community consensus, and displaying an unwillingness to reconsider their position, Stack Overflow, Inc. undermines the historical leeway granted to individual Stack Exchange communities. The autonomy that once allowed communities to shape their own policies has been undermined. This has left moderators and contributors feeling marginalized and disempowered.

General moderation strike across Stack Overflow and Stack Exchange network.

A Pause in Service: Impacting Platform Integrity

In their fervent pursuit of justice, the striking moderators and contributors have temporarily suspended various activities. These actions include raising and handling flags, running SmokeDetector (the anti-spam bot), closing or voting to close posts, deleting or voting to delete posts, reviewing tasks in the various review queues, and utilizing various other moderation-assisting bots, such as those designed to detect plagiarism, low-quality answers, and rude comments.

An Urgent Plea for Resolution

To protect the Stack Exchange platform’s integrity and value, the striking community members call upon Stack Overflow, Inc. to reconsider its policy changes. They demand that Stack Overflow, Inc. retracts the recent policy change to address the concerns voiced by moderators. The firm must also allow them to effectively enforce established policies against AI-generated answers. Additionally, they remind Stack Overflow, Inc. of volunteers’ vital role in the platform’s moderation model. They also highlighted the incongruity of ignoring, mistreating, and maligning these same volunteers.

Our Say

As this historic moderation strike unfolds, the eyes of the technology community turn towards Stack Overflow, Inc. They are all awaiting a response addressing the concerns of the passionate volunteers who built the Stack Exchange network. Only time will tell whether this clash between those who uphold the platform’s values and those responsible for its management will end in a manner that preserves the essence of Stack Overflow and restores harmony within its community.

Update: Stack Overflow has updated Analytics Vidhya that the primary concern for the strike is the dissatisfaction of community members with the network’s position on AI-generated content detection tools.

They have clarified the following:

Stack Overflow ran an analysis, and the ChatGPT detection tools that moderators were previously using have an alarmingly high rate of false positives. Usage of these tools correlated to a dramatic upswing in suspensions of users with little or no prior content contributions. People with original questions and answers were summarily suspended from participating on the platform. These unnecessary suspensions and their outsize impact on new users run counter to our mission and have a negative impact on our community.

We stand by our decision to require that moderators stop using the tools previously used. We will continue to look for alternatives and are committed to rapid testing of those tools. 

Our moderators have served this community for many years, and we appreciate their collective decades of service. We are confident that we will find a path forward. We regret that actions have progressed to this point, and the Community Management team is evaluating the current situation as we work hard to stabilize things in the short term.

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