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Stack Overflow Moderators Stop Work in Protest of Lax AI-Generated Content Guidelines

The moderators argue in a letter to the company that a new policy from Stack Overflow is "a near-total prohibition on moderating AI-generated content."

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Moderators of Stack Overflow, the go-to Q&A forum for programmers, have announced today they will be going on strike citing the company’s prohibition on moderating AI-generated content on the platform.

The moderators announced the strike on the company’s Meta board this morning, and released an accompanying letter addressed directly to Stack Overflow. Last week in a post—which has been downvoted at least 283 times—Stack Overflow announced its new moderation policy that will only remove AI-generated content in specific instances, claiming that over-moderation of posts made with artificial intelligence was turning away human contributors.


The company also said in its post that a strict standard of evidence needed to be used moving forward in order to manage AI content, and that that standard of evidence hasn’t applied to most suspensions issued by moderators thus far. This directive was also communicated to the platform’s moderation team privately before being posted publicly. The moderators of the website are claiming that this directive will allow AI content, which can frequently be incorrect, to run rampant on the forum while expressing discontent with Stack Overflow for not communicating this new policy more effectively.

“Stack Overflow, Inc. has decreed a near-total prohibition on moderating AI-generated content in the wake of a flood of such content being posted to and subsequently removed from the Stack Exchange network, tacitly allowing the proliferation of incorrect information (“hallucinations”) and unfettered plagiarism on the Stack Exchange network. This poses a major threat to the integrity and trustworthiness of the platform and its content,” the mods write in their letter to Stack Overflow.


“A small number of moderators (11%) across the Stack Overflow network have stopped engaging in several activities, including moderating content. The primary reason for this action is dissatisfaction with our position on detection tools regarding AI-generated content,” Philippe Beaudette, VP of Community at Stack Overflow, said in a statement emailed to Gizmodo. “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.”

Stack Overflow moderators, like those at Wikipedia, are volunteers tasked with maintaining the integrity of the platform. The moderators say that they tried to express their concerns with the company’s new policy through proper channels, but their anxieties fell on deaf ears. The mods plan to strike indefinitely, and will cease all actions including closing posts, deleting posts, flagging answers, and other tasks that help with website upkeep until AI policy has been retracted.

AI has been transforming Stack Overflow recently, for better or for worse. Stack Overflow confirmed the Gizmodo that traffic was dropping due to OpenAI’s ChatGPT as more and more programmers began turning to the chatbot to debug their code as opposed to waiting for a human reply on the forum. Web analytics firm SimilarWeb reported in April that Stack Overflow has seen a drop in traffic every month since the beginning of 2022, with the average drop being 6%. In March, Stack Overflow saw a 13.9% drop in traffic from February and in April, the website saw 17.7% drop in traffic from March.

Want to know more about AI, chatbots, and the future of machine learning? Check out our full coverage of artificial intelligence, or browse our guides to The Best Free AI Art Generators, The Best ChatGPT Alternatives, and Everything We Know About OpenAI’s ChatGPT.