Human Values Violations in Stack Overflow: An Exploratory Study

by   Sara Krishtul, et al.

A growing number of software-intensive systems are being accused of violating or ignoring human values (e.g., privacy, inclusion, and social responsibility), and this poses great difficulties to individuals and society. Such violations often occur due to the solutions employed and decisions made by developers of such systems that are misaligned with user values. Stack Overflow is the most popular QA website among developers to share their issues, solutions (e.g., code snippets), and decisions during software development. We conducted an exploratory study to investigate the occurrence of human values violations in Stack Overflow posts. As comments under posts are often used to point out the possible issues and weaknesses of the posts, we analyzed 2000 Stack Overflow comments and their corresponding posts (1980 unique questions or answers) to identify the types of human values violations and the reactions of Stack Overflow users to such violations. Our study finds that 315 out of 2000 comments contain concerns indicating their associated posts (313 unique posts) violate human values. Leveraging Schwartz's theory of basic human values as the most widely used values model, we show that hedonism and benevolence are the most violated value categories. We also find the reaction of Stack Overflow commenters to perceived human values violations is very quick, yet the majority of posts (76.35 all. Finally, we find that the original posters rarely react to the concerns of potential human values violations by editing their posts. At the same time, they usually are receptive when responding to these comments in follow-up comments of their own.


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