Yes, the new AI policy is bad. However, on top of that, I am not convinced the company has any right1 to try to impose it. The first thing claimed in the Tour page of all sites is (emphasis mine):
$subject Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for $subject. It's built and run by you as part of the Stack Exchange network of Q&A sites.
By us. By the communities actually using the sites. The communities decide what is and is not on topic, not SE. The users decide how to mold and adapt the SE model to the needs of their particular community, not SE. This is why some sites allow "shopping" questions (e.g. Hardware Requests), and why some sites allow ID questions ("help me figure out what book/movie/poem/play/whatever I saw this in") while others have banned them. This is why some sites allow questions asking for reference materials but others have banned them. This is why many sites have their own, slightly different policies on how to deal with homework questions. It's why some sites have a completely different take on what the SE model is (e.g. Puzzling or Code Golf). It's why some sites have strict requirements for references in answers (e.g. Medical Sciences).
The company has never before presumed to dictate, and I use this word in the strictest possible sense, what is and is not acceptable content on the sites beyond the obvious of requiring that all users behave in a civil, professional way, not post spam or porn and so on. This is a whole new level of intrusiveness and one we have never seen before. And I am not convinced they have the right to do this, while still claiming that the communities are self-moderated and run by us. First of all, this goes against the explicit promises they made to us, in writing, when the new mod agreement came out:
If the need for a new policy arises, it will be written and shared with the Moderator Council first. Then, it will pass through a process of feedback and possible iterations before being presented to the moderators on the Stack Moderators Team. These future policies will then be posted on MSE and receive the [mod-agreement-policy] tag to denote their status.
None of these steps were followed. Not one. The Moderator Council doesn't exist anymore, but they could have shared this policy with a representative group of mods, as they did in the past for the new underage moderator policy and the latest iteration of the CoC. But OK, since the Mod Council is no more, let's move past that one (although, doesn't that render the entire agreement void?).
There was no feedback or iteration, they went straight to the Stack Moderators Team, where they also didn't ask for feedback, they came down on us like a ton of bricks and laid down the law (they actually wrote "We are now requiring you", I kid you not) while also being quite insulting and treating us like wayward children. Finally, and most importantly, the policy has never been posted on MSE. What you have seen is just a vague description, not the policy itself. As such, I don't see how it can be binding.
But even setting all this aside, ignoring the fact that when they say "binding", they mean that we are bound by the agreement, not them, even setting that aside, the company simply has no business inserting itself into our communities in such a manner. The understanding here has always been that the company provides the hardware and infrastructure, and we provide the subject knowledge and police our own communities in the way those communities decide.
Every other official network-wide policy can be seen here: Questions tagged [mod-agreement-policy]. You'll note that they cover things like minimum age for moderators (legal requirements about being given access to PII), handling posts suggesting risk of self harm and suicide, and acceptable behavior on a public site like ours (the CoC). In other words, things that are either related to legal obligations or can cause real harm to people or both. We have never, ever had a network-wide policy where the company presumes to dictate to us what kind of quality criteria we should use to determine what is and is not welcome on our own sites. This is beyond the purview of the company and breaks one of the most basic covenants between the communities and SE: with this policy, the sites are no longer run by us, they are now run by the company.
I am therefore asking for an official staff response justifying and explaining how they justify imposing something like this and how, in their view, this can be compatible with claiming that the SE communities run themselves:
- What makes you think you get to ignore the mod agreement while holding us to it?
- What makes you think you get to dictate what constitutes a good answer for us?
1To be clear, these are their sites, they own the infrastructure, and can do whatever they like. I am asking how they justify this within the bounds of the written and unwritten rules that have governed these sites for more than a decade and while still claiming that the communities are "run by us".