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A new article about the strike was posted on The Verge. In it, it is revealed that a statement by Philippe was issued, and claims the following:

When asked by The Verge about the contrast between Stack Overflow’s embrace of AI and the dissatisfaction expressed by its moderators, Liuzzo declined to answer. Later, Stack Overflow sent The Verge a press statement from its VP of community, Philippe Beaudette, criticizing moderators for levying “unnecessary suspensions” on users. One of the strike’s elected representatives, Mithical, told The Verge that the company’s characterization was incorrect and that it had failed to provide any actual examples of incorrect suspensions.

The statement itself is significantly more expansive, and as previous, tries to downplay the impact of the strike while criticizing moderators at virtually every turn. It plays a game of statistics to hide the outsized impact the strike has on content curation (with some obvious spam posts on SO taking nearly an entire week to be closed - and the irony is that a large chunk of it appears to be AI-generated), downplays both the insight and expertise of moderators, promotes the same vacuous talking points that SE refuses to walk back on or even reconsider (as evident by the complete lack of feedback to GPT on the platform: Data, actions, and outcomes, despite some very high-quality and detailed answers).

This is the third disparaging statement to the press about this issue. This is important, as some important guardrails were put in place to avoid this exact thing repeating after the issues that happened in 2019 - Stack Exchange staff speaking to the press instead of the community being a great way to track back on this.

Your own moderator agreement states the following:

Stack Exchange, Inc. agrees that it will:

  • Get your explicit written permission before commenting to any media (including media outlets controlled by Stack Exchange Inc.) or independent reporters about you or your moderator actions as per our Press Policy.

Your own code of conduct states this:

  • We also do not allow causing or contributing to an atmosphere that excludes or marginalizes.
  • We do not allow any content that promotes false, harmful, or misleading information that carries the risk of harm to a person or group of people.

When will you abide by your own rules?

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  • 12
    They won't. What's that saying? It's easier to ask for forgiveness than permission.
    – Script47
    Jun 13, 2023 at 14:28
  • 16
    "When will you abide by your own rules" - when company is shut down. Not a nanosecond before that. Jun 13, 2023 at 14:32
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    But on a more serious note, this is about the zillion post directed at the "company" asking for official response. Not even single one got even a tiny blip response from staff. So kudos for trying, but... come on, does anyone still think we'll ever get response? That management will actually come and say "We made an oopsie, sorry!"? Jun 13, 2023 at 14:34
  • 2
    Does the Code of Conduct even apply to anyone other than "Users"?
    – Cerbrus
    Jun 13, 2023 at 14:35
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    although the article itself is new, it's not evident to me whether the statement by Philippe is new or not. It looks the same as the one from before, and while it is blantantly wrong and should never have been said, I think it's important to clarify whether any new communications with the press have been made especially considering the pending negotiations. Jun 13, 2023 at 14:42
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    Kudos to the Verge and James Vincent for putting a response from the moderators in their reporting and linking to more information about the strike though.
    – ColleenV
    Jun 13, 2023 at 14:43
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    @MissSkooter The statement is also new - Mith confirmed it. Jun 13, 2023 at 14:47
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    once is mistake, twice is stupidity, three is malice
    – SPArcheon
    Jun 13, 2023 at 14:48
  • 2
    It's mostly repeated from previous statements, but has some minor differences.
    – Mithical
    Jun 13, 2023 at 14:49
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    The moderator agreement is with "you" singular. The purpose of the changes was to avoid naming a specific person, as happened with Monica. The company (and their lawyers) clearly consider referring to "moderators" in general as not a violation.
    – OrangeDog
    Jun 13, 2023 at 15:29
  • 8
    @SPArcheon, Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. Three times is enemy action. -- Ian Fleming Jun 13, 2023 at 16:26
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    Looking at this from the sidelines, I have to wonder why you moderators are even still trying. You're in an actively abusive relationship that is never going to come around to what it once was.
    – Bart
    Jun 13, 2023 at 17:39
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    Would it have been so hard to say "there is a disagreement, and we're currently trying to come to a solution"? Or "no comment yet at this time"? Diplomacy 101. Not very hard people... This is becoming increasingly more exasperating. Jun 13, 2023 at 17:53
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    @Bart - Some mods have been in this exploitative relationship for years. Many who are exploited in relationships find it hard to leave. It's tough for those who've been repeatedly making the same mistake to admit it. The exploitation also often includes making the choice of alternatives very difficult. Some here will leave. Most of those who do most of the work will. Company bosses know that. They don't WANT most of their unpaid workforce any more. I really hope that some who leave will reflect and publish some great critiques. This is a "free work for big business" story AND an "AI" story. Jun 13, 2023 at 18:27
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    @apaderno: The Verge can't be completely trusted, but if they misquoted or misrepresented something from the company you can bet the company would put out a statement correcting the record. Jun 14, 2023 at 0:24

4 Answers 4

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criticizing moderators for levying “unnecessary suspensions” on users.

We're still waiting for even one example of a suspension which was unnecessary. Phillipe has sort of addressed this:

it is impossible for us to generate a list of cases where we know moderators have made a mistake

We didn't ask for a complete list; but Phillipe said it would be impossible to provide a list of known cases at all (not just a complete list). That can only be because those known cases don't exist.

So Phillipe is levelling this accusation at moderators on the basis of SE, Inc.'s analysis which purports to show that GPT posts occur at a lower rate than GPT-related suspensions. This is disappointing to say the least, because that analysis has been roundly debunked by now. But apparently SE, Inc. still believes it strongly enough to smear moderators in the press.

If SE, Inc. staff will break their own rules and smear moderators in the press, why shouldn't moderators defend themselves in public ─ even if doing so requires breaking some of the same rules?

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  • 9
    Why moderators shouldn't break the same rules? Because if they abide by the rules, they have the high ground. "We kept our part of the deal, you didn't." Jun 13, 2023 at 16:29
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    @S.L.Barth I think it's very possible to break an agreement without ceding the moral high ground, if you have an honourable reason, particularly if the other party has already broken the agreement. If, for example, the secret version of the policy were made public ─ and this showed that SE, Inc. had been lying about what the policy said, and lying about what position the moderators are opposed to ─ then I don't think this would cede the high ground in most people's views. When somebody is caught lying, it's usually not a very good defense for them to say "but you agreed not to expose me!"
    – kaya3
    Jun 13, 2023 at 16:35
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    Moderators won't break the rules because they are genuinely good people who have ethics and unfortunately corporates tend to exploit this. Jun 14, 2023 at 2:39
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+50

They won't.

As history has proven and the current events are showing.

From the last press debacle: Update: an agreement with Monica Cellio and I quote:

We have since updated some of our policies and processes to help ensure we are more careful in our public communications [...]

Yet, here we are again.

You can create all the policies you want but if they fundamentally don't respect us or their own rules enough to follow them themselves it won't make a difference.

No, the CoC is nothing more than an instrument used to beat power users/mods over the head with while showing the world that SO is very "welcoming" and "inclusive" and the policies and promises they make on Meta are merely a way to shut us up until their next inevitable mess.

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    Currently it looks like for SE leadership it is "rules for thee, but not for me" in any and all things. I am so fucking tired of the all the shit SE "leadership" are doing.
    – CharonX
    Jun 13, 2023 at 15:10
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    People complained about the CoC, and said that it was an instrument to wield power over other people. The people who said that have been accused of being "bad persons" (usually in the form of calling them "*ists"). Some of those who defended some of the previous management decisions could now recognize the harmful impact of the spirits that they summoned, and could be more careful with demanding certain rules and regulations in the future. (I'm not that naive. I don't think that this will happen. But wish that it did happen)
    – Marco13
    Jun 13, 2023 at 15:13
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The funny thing is they created a very long post trying to frame their position as something along the lines of

"Hey, we're trying. There's no malice intended here; we just had to choose between two bad paths. There's no malice intended here; it's just a hard problem to solve. There's no malice intended here; we're so innocent and we care about content quality and the community, but there's just no better way :("

...and included a bunch of numbers and graphs that might actually get some users convinced. Yet, here we are, the malice is very clearly intended, from bad-mouthing the moderators and community to the press, to completely ignoring posts seeking a response from the company about that situation. And they will continue to do so simply because they can. I'm not even sure what the planned meeting with the moderators is supposed to resolve at this point.


I've been watching the situation from a distance and did not want to get involved (by writing answers, etc.) because it won't change much, and I'm not a very active user on Meta anyway, but I had to get this off my chest.

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    "what the planned meeting with the moderators is supposed to resolve at this point." To show that there is no malice intended here. That it's a hard problem to solve, that they are innocent and care about content quality and the community. But in the end, without moderators seeing the truth, there is just no better way. And it's a game of chicken. Whoever blinks first, loses and if nobody blinks, everyone loses. Every day the costs increase. While there may be a middle ground (actually there isn't in regard to the data dump with me) it may not be reachable. Jun 13, 2023 at 15:34
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They have no incentive

It's just like with the tipping system in the U.S., everyone knows it profits only companies, but as long as people agree to it, it will continue, because companies like free or almost free labor. And the people who are victims of the system are the ones who keep it running.

So as long as there will be 'volunteers' making their place a better place, the never-ending drama will continue. From time to time, some of their free workers will burn out and leave, making a lot of noise, to be sooner or later replaced by a new one, and the whole vicious circle will continue.

You have immediately 2 hard problems there. Firstly, people tend to disrespect something they are getting for free - it works for social benefits, public accommodations, but it works exactly the same for free labor the companies are getting. Second, it blocks the innovation. There's absolutely no reason to work on spam filters, if people would remove spam for free for you.

The best thing we can do is to abstain for cleaning up their mess for free and let them think about it. I don't believe it will work. Sooner or later people will start handling flags for badges that cost them nothing, some of them will apply for new mods, and after a few years we'll have another crisis. Or the company will decline together with the quality of the content.

The bitter irony is, people working as CEOs or under other fancy names are not born dumbheads. They used to be intelligent people with many interests, but the corporation culture has burned their brains before they reach fancy-name stadium of their careers. Once you reach that stadium, your ability to see the world as it is is gone.

*) I'm putting 'volunteer' in quotes, because it's simply a misuse to use that word to describe a free labor. You are volunteer if you work for charity or non-profit org, otherwise you're simply an apprentice.

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    "You are volunteer if you work for charity or non-profit org, otherwise you're simply an apprentice." Is just factually wrong. Apprentices must be paid as employees, because they are employees. You might refer to interns, but even then, this is still not accurate, to the point of misleading.
    – Nij
    Jun 25, 2023 at 8:04
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    Volunteering is a voluntary act of an individual or group freely giving time and labor for community service.Wikipedia. I am not familiar with any definition which requires the community service to be operated by a charity or non-profit organisation.
    – kaya3
    Jun 25, 2023 at 16:15

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