Understanding Anonymity – Copyright © 1981, 2011 Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc

GENERAL SOCIAL NETWORKING WEBSITES; Facebook  and  other  social  networking  websites  are  public  in  nature. Though  users  create  accounts  and  utilize  usernames  and  passwords, once on the site, it is a public medium where A.A.  members and non A.A.s mingle. As long  as  individuals do  not  identify  themselves  as  A.A. members,  there is no conflict of interest.  However, someone using their full name and/ or  a  likeness,  such  as  a  full-face  photograph,  would  be  contrary  to  the spirit  of  the  Eleventh  Tradition,  which  states  in  the Long  Form  that,  “… our [last] names and pictures as A.A.  members  ought not  be  broadcast, filmed or publicly printed.” Experience suggests that it is in keeping with the Eleventh  Tradition not to disclose A.A. membership on social networking sites as well as on any other website, blog, electronic bulletin board, etc., that is not composed solely  of  A.A.  members  and not password protected, or is  accessible  to the public. Websites social networking offer individuals the chance to post a great deal  of personal  information  about  themselves  (and  others).  Our  experience suggests that some A.A.  members do not post anything that is “A.A.  jargon”  on their personal profiles and in  “status updates,”  while others feel it is alright to do so as long as A.A.  or Alcoholics Anonymous specifically  is not mentioned. These  websites often allow  users to create  social networking  “groups” and the ability to invite others to  “events”  for like-minded individuals. Some A.A.s have chosen to create A.A.-related groups.  Since this is a relatively new medium, A.A.  members are frequently  “learning as they go,”  and technology and applications change practically on a daily basis.

Our experience has shown that the evolving nature of social networking platforms makes it difficult to provide specific guidelines for using such resources for A.A.  purposes.   Any A.A.  group or member that is thinking about entering this public arena should closely consider the privacy policies of such sites, in light of A.A.’s tradition of anonymity.   For example, social networking sites often provide full  names and pictures of group  members,  contrary  to  A.A.’s  practice  of  avoiding  such  disclosures in public media.   Even  “closed”  or  “private”  groups might still reveal an individual’s  identity.    Being  well-informed  prior  to  joining  or  starting  such a group is the key to protecting your own anonymity, and that of others. G.S.O.  has received numerous complaints from concerned A.A.  members  regarding  anonymity  breaks  online,  inappropriate  use  of  the  A.A. name, and copyrighted materials and protected trademarks being improperly used on Facebook and other social networking websites.  No local online A.A.  or non-A.A.  entity should purport itself to be a spokesperson for A.A.  or act as if they represent the General Service Office, A.A.W.S.,  or  the  General  Service  Board.  Each  A.A.  entity  is  autonomous and encouraged to make decisions by informed group conscience decision in light of the guidance provided in our  Twelve  Traditions. A.A.  members sometimes contact G.S.O.  for suggestions on how to remain within the  Traditions on Facebook and other social networking websites.  Keep in mind that G.S.O.  staff members are not  “special workers”  of the  “technological wizards”  variety, but they can act as a resource regarding  A.A.’s  Twelve  Traditions  and  the  shared  experience  of  the Fellowship in the U.S.  and Canada.  How A.A.’s spiritual principles play out in new technologies needs to be carefully discussed by each A.A. individual or entity creating an online presence.

 

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