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Sometimes people on the team make mistakes. As an example, I used to moderate a video game server, and on a couple of occasions, users were banned/suspended by individuals from the administrative team when the rest of the team agreed the action should not have been taken.

Predictably, certain users on the server began crying 'mod abuse' and making complaints.

What's the best way to approach situations like this, where the community is convinced the moderators are being abusive, when the action taken was not warranted? Reversing the action seems like a start, but a way to diffuse the uproar seems a little harder to manage, particularly when mistakes are not regularly being made by a single person or group.

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  • s/take/taken/ too small to edit though
    – rolfl
    Jul 29 '14 at 19:23
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It should mostly go like this:

  1. Reverse the call
  2. Apologize to the affected parties
  3. If necessary and possible, explain the reasons for your actions
  4. Moderate the backslash itself

I think point 4 is pretty important, if non-obvious; you might not want to deal with complaints about moderation with more moderations. However, if your community is about X and the discussion shifts massively to something completely unrelated, then it's the moderators' duty to help get the discussion on track.

Try and contain the uproar in a well-defined area so that people who don't have time in their lives for drama and just want to get on with their day can do so easily. Having a separate section for meta matters helps greatly.

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It's important to come to an agreement as a mod team first. If the acting mod doesn't feel what they did was unwarranted, you've got bigger troubles than community reaction. Get it sorted out before you handle the community.

If the acting mod agrees to participate in mitigating what happened, the best course for the acting mod to apologize and take whatever corrective action is necessary. This demonstrates the mod's recognition of responsibility for their actions, willingness to listen to reason, and responsiveness to the community.

It is also important that the community understands that the team backs up the acting mod's display of humility, that it is forgiven, and that the moderation team continues to trust the acting mod's judgement. A demonstration of the mod team's confidence in the acting moderator's ability to handle being wrong goes a long way toward restoring the community's faith in that moderator.

We all make mistakes. That can always be forgiven, especially if the community sees that the team can handle it gracefully when something goes wrong. If this happens frequently, where the mods are acting in ways that the community objects to, then discussing what the expectations are (like a Meta post about 'when do we delete stuff' or 'when should we ban people') should help get the bile out and give the mods a better feel for how the community wants things to work.

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Sometimes people on the team make mistakes. As an example, I used to moderate a video game server, and on a couple of occasions, users were banned/suspended by individuals from the administrative team when the rest of the team agreed the action should not have been taken.

This is completely normal due to the fallibility of human nature. Any community member, whether a moderator or a regular member, can make wrong decisions.

Predictably, certain users on the server began crying 'mod abuse' and making complaints.

This is, in fact, abnormal. Why crying?! Someone made some wrong decision, so the action should be reversed; if any moderator insists on making wrong decisions, this means that he/she does not qualify for a community moderator and so should be removed from his/her position.

If some action has been taken against a community member wrongly, the member should be able to report it to other moderators (or administrators if necessary), and the community managers (administrators & moderators) should reverse the taken action as soon as possible.

Now, a question may arise: Why may some uproar occur in such a situation?

The answer is clear: Because, unfortunately, in many communities there is an unwritten policy that community managers should support each other and none of them should not be accused of any privilege abuse publicly (due to their close friendship).

So, what is a solution for such a problem (uproar)?

The answer is easy: Prevention is better than cure. First, make sure that any community member, while being suspended, can access and talk to the community managers easily. Second, when you see that a moderator has taken some wrong action against a member, you should reverse the action as soon as possible; in the worst case, you may lose your friendship with that moderator, but you need to determine which of the following in your community is more important to you: friendships or trustworthiness.

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