Stack Overflow hailed its OpenAI partnership as a boon for developers — but now disgruntled users say they're being banned for deleting posts

Software developer using Stack Overflow on a desktop computer with screen reflecting in spectacles.
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Stack Overflow users are pushing back against the company’s recent deal with OpenAI by attempting to delete or alter contributions, prompting a slew of suspensions. 

The deal, which grants OpenAI access to a large volume of developer data through Stack Overflow’s OverflowAPI, has caused outrage from the outset among developers.

The crux of the community backlash regards an alleged lack of consent given by developers who have contributed to the platform, with some angry that their data will be used without permission to train OpenAI’s large language models (LLMs).

An initial release of the news to Stack Exchange, a Stack Overflow-focused forum for platform users, garnered a flurry of angry responses from the community.

“I hate this. I'm just going to delete/deface my answers one by one,” one member commented. 

Stack Overflow users are not able to delete posts but are able to edit answers, which some users have attempted to do to change their contributions to protest messages. 

One user commented about their experience doing this, changing their “highest-rated answers to a protest message”. This, the user claimed, led to the suspension of their account.

“Within an hour mods had changed the questions back and suspended my account for 7 days,” the user commented. 

Other people are reporting similar issues, with one user taking to Twitter to reference the ongoing deletion of accounts by Stack Overflow, as well as the reported changes in Stack Overflow’s terms and conditions.

“It's important to note that the "right to forget" no longer applies to your answers, as per StackOverflow's Terms and Conditions, which grant them special permission to retain all answers,” the user posted. 

Attached to the post is a screenshotted email from Stack Overflow to a platform user which suggests the level of control the platform exerts over developer posts.


“You have recently removed or defaced content from your posts. Please note that once you post a question or answer to this, those posts become part of the collective efforts of others who have also contributed to that content,” the email reads. 

Though this email cannot yet be legitimately linked to Stack Overflow, it does seem to align with similar conditions laid out in the company's public terms of service. 

Stack Overflow T&Cs state that users “cannot revoke permission…to publish, distribute, store, and use such content and to allow others to have derivative rights to publish, distribute, store, and use such content”. 

ITPro has approached Stack Overflow for comment.

George Fitzmaurice
Staff Writer

George Fitzmaurice is a staff writer at ITPro, ChannelPro, and CloudPro, with a particular interest in AI regulation, data legislation, and market development. After graduating from the University of Oxford with a degree in English Language and Literature, he undertook an internship at the New Statesman before starting at ITPro. Outside of the office, George is both an aspiring musician and an avid reader.