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So, the CEO of Stack Exchange has been quoted in a news article saying that they plan to sell the content of the SE network to large companies training neural networks like the one used for ChatGPT. See this meta post for more details and a link to the article.

The only official response so far has been rather vague, but I didn't get the impression that SE is denying any of this. Otherwise they have been silent on this issue. I suspect that they have a lot of questions to answer internally on this, so I'm not really surprised that they're silent so far. There are some complex legal issues here involved, and it's still quite possible that those will be decided in a way that SE won't get any money at all.

One part I've been wondering though is whether SE would actually tell us if they sold our content. I don't think they are legally obliged to do that; I'm ignoring the question here on whether they can legally sell the content under a non-CC license. That's a different question and if that isn't true, the whole issue resolves itself in any case. They might not be able to hide this, depending on how the whole legal issues are resolved, but I also could imagine situations where both sides would benefit from keeping the agreement quiet.

To me, the CC license is one of the most important decisions the company made in the early days. It's one of the reasons I still have much more respect for SE than for most other companies that rely on community-contributed content. The license says that the content doesn't belong to SE; it belongs to the community. So any agreement that sells our content under a different license affects the community, and I think we should be informed about this.

I'm not saying that selling the content for the purpose of training AIs is bad, or good. Honestly, I haven't come to a conclusion here yet on what outcome I prefer. The cynical take is that this is just a decision about which company gets to screw us over. The optimistic answer might be that the network might benefit from additional resources. Or maybe we all benefit when AIs are trained for free on all this data, or we get really screwed by those AIs when they turn into Skynet. But no matter which case, I would like to ask SE to please inform us when they decide to sell the content of the network under a non-CC license.

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