As one of the "curators" on strike I follow as much of the conversations and progress as I can. I again and again encounter the trust issue, which is a festering wound that seems to be avoided for lack of an answer. The AI-content fiat was the spark that lit this fire. That policy is also, near as I can tell, the Rubicon which must be uncrossed if anything else is to matter. Yet, for many, that is only the beginning. There are some of the mods, and curators, who will accept a new, sane, policy regarding AI-generated content, hope that it remains sane, and resume doing the unpleasant task of cleaning up the garbage to keep the sites looking nice. Many, however, lack the trust that even once a new policy is acceptable, it remains acceptable for long. They, which includes me, know that as soon as the pressure is off, the company, and the authorities in it, will return to abusing the mods, and the communities, however they choose.
"So," I asked myself, "what has to happen before I can trust SE again?" I paced from stem to stern for quite a while until I'd finally developed an answer I could express in words. I have to preface my conclusion with a minor bit of introduction, however. Relative to many involved in the strike I am a low rep user, on any one site as well as the total network-wide total. I'm neither an old user, as some are, nor am I a new user; I joined the network in Dec. 2016. I am not, and have never been a mod here. I will question any "fact" until I am convinced it is a fact. Lastly, and importantly in this situation, I don't do "tact" well at all. What I say is what I mean, and what I mean is what I say.
I've got to present a simple analogy, which I hope will make my conclusion understandable. Let's say that as a kid I lived at the end of a dead-end street such that the only way home was passed other houses. One of those houses has a large dog that always barks as I pass. One day it manages to escape and attacks me. The owner is fined and a larger fence is built with stronger locks. I know that the dog cannot escape again. Yet, every day, as I walk past that house the dog barks, and I flinch. What will it take for me to "trust" that dog again?
The laconic answer is "Everything and nothing."
There have been many suggestions involving some form of repercussions to SE for violations of their agreements in the future. Legally binding contracts, mediations, or even financial penalties. Those are potential avenues to encourage SE to stick to their agreements, true. They do not, however, help with the trust. Using those tools only increases confidence that SE won't break the agreements due to the consequences, not because the company, or its leadership, has changed enough to choose to honor them freely. The locks on the dog's gate ensure it cannot escape. Still, while trusting the lock, sort of, I am not trusting the dog. I don't trust the dog until I reach the point that I no longer flinch when it barks at me. I won't trust SE until I no longer flinch or cringe when another "announcement" is posted before I even read the title.
The "everything" part means that I won't reach that state, if ever, until SE has honored their "agreements" scrupulously in every detail - both in the letter and spirit of the agreements - for a long time.
The "nothing" part means that I won't reach that state, if ever, until SE has done nothing to even hint that they'd rather not keep their word "this time," or attempt to do anything not covered by an agreement, legal or otherwise, which could give me a reason to lose trust in them again.
This has to be demonstrated by the company, as a whole, and in its parts. The CEO might be the one who sets the vision, good or bad, yet it is the line-staff who take the actions which may, or may not, align with that vision. The CMs when dealing with the mods, the CEO when making decisions or announcements. The PR staff when addressing media outlets.
While I don't think a "company" can have integrity, as it is a personality trait and a company is not a "person." I do believe the leaders of a company have integrity. At whatever level of authority they have, when what they publicly claim and what they privately do match, there might be integrity there. If they do not match, there surely is not integrity.
Integrity involves doing the right thing, even when no one is watching
— C.S Lewis
In my time here I've seen limited amounts of personal behaviors from staff. What they have to post as part of their job doesn't count in that regard, though how they say it, or react in comments might. I have had even fewer personal interactions with staff, and suspect nearly all are gone now anyway. That all boils down to I'm not really in a position to estimate the presence or absence of integrity in the leadership, or staff, for the most part. Those who do deal with them on a regular basis are, and I know, and respect the integrity of, enough of them to accept their determination by proxy.
Can I trust SE, or rather the leadership of SE? Maybe. Will I trust them? While not denying the possibility, at this point it is looking rather doubtful. What happens as they deal with the strike is going to go a long way in permitting, or preventing, that possibility.
I do wish to clarify that "the company" is not each and every staff member or employee of the Stack Exchange. That term is chosen to represent the responsible persons for the actions and directions of the company. In the overwhelming majority of the cases, I have no personal knowledge of who made a decision, or how their terms of employment might be used to force someone employed there to post comments, make statements, or take actions which they disagree with. There is one, still currently employed, person with whom I have no doubts about their integrity. Yaakov Ellis has repeatedly demonstrated that he means what he says and says what he means. He has seemed to always faithfully deliver a message, including ensuring that the meaning of the message was understood, rather than merely delivering the speech. If the leadership, as a whole, of Stack Exchanged possessed the integrity that he does, the current conditions wouldn't even exist in the fevered nightmares of anyone, let alone be a reality.