“Our public relations policy is based on attraction rather than promotion; we need always maintain personal anonymity at the level of press, radio, [TV,] and films.”
“Thus we respectfully ask that no A.A. speaker — or, indeed, any A.A. member — be identified by full name in published or broadcast reports of our meetings. …”
“The assurance of anonymity is essential in our effort to help other problem drinkers who may wish to share our recovery program with us. And our Tradition of anonymity reminds us that A.A. principles come before personalities.”
Copyright A.A. World Services, Inc. Reprinted with permission.
The fundamental principles of AA anonymity are not changed when electronic media, such as the Internet, are used to facilitate communication among members. The name “Alcoholics Anonymous” implies both that individuals may retain the degree of privacy they wish regarding their membership in the fellowship and also that no single member speaks for the whole of AA at the level of press, film, radio, or television. The tradition of anonymity is explained in depth in AA publications such as The Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, and the pamphlet “Understanding Anonymity”. This Online Advisory Statement is intended to clarify some special situations which arise when AA meetings occur on the Internet.
In addition to the formal statements of AA traditions, well established customs have developed that are applicable to the online environment. It is customary in service activities that members provide each other with sufficient identification to be reached easily and quickly. Members who accept service positions sacrifice some of their privacy in order to serve best. If personal circumstances prevent such openness, the member should decline or step down from the position.
Online AA meetings are inherently more private than traditional face-to-face AA meetings. That is, members who meet electronically are unable to see and hear each other and must rely on the written word to share their experience, strength, and hope. We have learned that powerful relationships can be formed in this new medium, despite great physical distances, and, more importantly, we have learned that the AA twelve-step program of recovery works effectively online in writing, just as the writers and publishers of AA’s early print writings expected.
The most widely used online AA meeting technique employs email. This technology effectively solves the problem of working together while preserving anonymity because a return address is provided to each recipient with each message, and the sender can be reached quickly by return email. A sender of email may include a first name, full name, or simply a username, as desired. Postal addresses and telephone numbers are seldom necessary in this environment, though they may be useful for some transactions, such as transmitting funds by mail or coordinating service committee work among several members by telephone. Where it is clear that the common good requires further identification, further identification should be provided or the member should perform other service that permits a higher degree of privacy.
A special circumstance of online AA anonymity is that communications that are intended to be private, or only for the use of a known group of recipients, are received either on the addressee’s monitor screen or on paper. It is the duty of recipient members to guard the confidentiality of these messages by not sharing them with other persons not addressed by the writer. This article of “netiquette” is widely agreed upon by online users, whether or not they are members of Alcoholics Anonymous, but the topics of AA meetings add a duty and responsibility that online messages remain as private as the sender intends.
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