I have an official role moderating an online community that is open to the public. I exercise my best judgment in interpreting the rules, but:
- I don't make the rules, I only enforce them.
- I am only one moderator in a larger team, and we don't always agree in our interpretations.
I told a user that what they were doing was against the rules, in no uncertain terms and in an official voice. But after doing more research I found that I had interpreted the rules in a way that was inconsistent with past actions by other moderators, and the consensus among the current team also disagrees with my interpretation. In hindsight, I should have done more research and consulted with the team before taking any action, but I had some reason to think the situation was more straightforward than was actually the case.
Now I have to eat crow. I said the wrong thing, I was very firm about it, and I can't erase or edit the record of the conversation. I need to publicly admit that I was wrong and clarify the actual correct policy. I want to retract my statement in a mature, credible way, so that the mistake doesn't make me less effective as a moderator going forward.
However, in addition to retracting the statement and clarifying the policy, should I offer an apology to the user? Why or why not?
If an apology is necessary, why might I want to do it:
- publicly, as part of the retraction?
- separately, in a private conversation?