Stack Overflow is feeding programmers’ answers to AI, whether they like it or not

Stack Overflow is feeding programmers’ answers to AI, whether they like it or not
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Stack Overflow’s new deal giving OpenAI access to its API as a source of data has users who’ve posted their questions and answers about coding problems in conversations with other humans rankled. Users say that when they attempt to alter their posts in protest, the site is retaliating by reversing the alterations and suspending the users who carried them out.

A programmer named Ben posted a screenshot yesterday of the change history for a post seeking programming advice, which they’d updated to say that they had removed the question to protest the OpenAI deal. “The move steals the labour of everyone who contributed to Stack Overflow with no way to opt-out,” read the updated post.

The text was reverted less than an hour later. A moderator message Ben also included says that Stack Overflow posts become “part of the collective efforts” of other contributors once made and that they should only be removed “under extraordinary circumstances.” The moderation team then said it was suspending his account for a week while it reached out “to avoid any further misunderstandings.”

Like other platforms that derive their value from user-generated content, Stack Overflow owns users’ posts. As part of its terms of service, users “cannot revoke permission” for the site to use what they contribute to the platform. But the site uses a Creative Commons 4.0 license, which requires attribution. When OpenAI and Stack Overflow announced their partnership earlier this week, OpenAI said ChatGPT would attribute its answers when they’re sourced from the platform. Google says that’s also a feature of Stack Overflow’s similar deal with Google for Gemini Cloud.

The problem that’s left is the lack of transparency about where a chatbot’s answers are coming from. If ChatGPT or another bot answers a question and part of it isn’t in the source cited, was it hallucinated, or did it come from somewhere else?

Stack Overflow did not immediately respond to a request for comment on this story.


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