A.A.® Guidelines Internet
from G.S.O., Box 459, Grand Central Station, New York, NY 10163
A.A. Guidelines are compiled from the shared experience of A.A. members in various service areas. They also reflect guidance
given through the Twelve Traditions and the General Service Conference (U.S. and Canada). In keeping with our Tradition of
autonomy, except in matters affecting other groups or A.A. as a whole, most decisions are made by the group conscience of the
members involved. The purpose of these Guidelines is to assist in reaching an informed group conscience.
A.A. WEB SITES—
SETTING UP A LOCAL WEB SITE
Decisions in the Fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous are usually made
through an informed group conscience and the decision to create a Web
site is no different. Whether area or district, central office or intergroup,
A.A. experience suggests forming a committee to discuss all aspects of
the project, including all possible concerns about the Traditions.
Early on, it is important to agree upon a method for establishing the
group conscience that represents the local A.A. community, and for informing
local groups, districts and central/intergroup offices in an area
(if affected) about the committee's progress. When the committee has
reached a consensus about its role and responsibilities and the scope of
the Web site, its findings are shared with the whole body (district, area,
etc.) and a decision is made through an informed group conscience vote
on whether to move ahead with the development of a Web site. As part
of this process, committees may wish to bring technical questions to
experts in the field.
Based on A.A.'s strength and history of personal and intimate sharing,
the spiritual nature of "one drunk talking to another" is an ongoing concern
when discussing technology as a source of A.A. information. Even
many Internet-savvy A.A. members say that they do not want the ease of
new technology to detract from the one-on-one sharing that has been so
essential to our Fellowship and our recovery from alcoholism. It is helpful
to remember that there is no need to let the speed of technology dictate
the speed of our actions.
Based on shared experience to date, Web site committees not only discuss
the technical aspects of developing a Web site but also address
questions related to preserving the spiritual connection created by one
alcoholic talking with another. Some committees have reported a loss of
"personal touch" when relying too heavily on technology, while others report
that they have found a balance that works for them. It will be up to a
committee's informed group conscience to determine what A.A. content
is useful and appropriate. The good news is that today's decisions can
be reviewed, revised, abandoned or expanded. A committee can always
try something for a certain length of time and then come back and determine
how well it is working. This is the A.A. way!
WEB SITE ROLES AND RESPONSIBILITIES
After an informed group conscience structure is in place to decide the
contents, policies and procedures involved in setting up and maintaining
an A.A. Web site, it has been suggested that a Web master (Web
manager) be appointed or elected. The Web master is responsible to the
committee or the groups served.
One area has the following experience: Their Web site committee is
composed of six A.A.s: the Web chairperson, area Public Information
(P.I.) chairperson, a current district committee member (D.C.M.), a past
delegate, a current general service representative (G.S.R.) and an ad
hoc member. The latter three individuals are selected by the Web site
chairperson, and their term of service is two years. In addition, a Web
master, alternate Web master and other ad hoc members are responsible
for the day-to-day maintenance of the Web site. (Experience indicates
this can be time-consuming if the Web master is responsible for
updating local meeting information.)
Some committees choose to create their own Web site guidelines, including:
description of the site's purpose; details of the Web site's content;
procedures for adding or removing content; committee rotation
schedule; defining the difference between a Web site committee and a
Web site maintenance team (e.g. Web master and alternate); guidelines
for the Web site committee and, if applicable, guidelines for the Web
team outlining its composition and responsibilities.
SELECTING A DOMAIN NAME
The choice of a domain name should, as other critical elements, be
determined by an informed group conscience. To preserve Alcoholics
Anonymous' trademarks and service marks, Web site committees are
asked to avoid using the marks "A.A.," "Alcoholics Anonymous," and/or
"The Big Book" in their domain names.
It has been our experience that many service entities have integrated
lower case "aa" into their domain names along with other identifying information
(e.g., www.aacentraloffice.org or www.area999aa.org). This
has proved to be a positive resolution in support of A.A.'s trademarks
and service marks.
WEB SITE CONTENTS
Copyright restrictions protect material displayed on Web sites just
as copyrights protect A.A.'s printed literature. Permission must be obtained
from G.S.O. prior to including A.A.W.S. or A.A. Grapevine and
La Viña material.
Just as with A.A. newsletters, Web sites created by A.A. areas, districts
and central/intergroup offices can quote a phrase, sentence or
brief paragraph excerpted from A.A. literature – such as the Big Book
(Alcoholics Anonymous), Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, The A.A.
Service Manual, and Conference-approved pamphlets—without a prior,
written request. When this occurs, the proper credit line should be
included to ensure that A.A. literature copyrights are protected. After a
brief quotation from a book or pamphlet, the following credit line should
Reprinted from (name of publication, page number), with permission
of A.A. World Services, Inc.
As the A.A. Preamble is copyrighted by the A.A. Grapevine, the following
words should appear beneath the Preamble or any article or cartoon
reprinted from the Grapevine:
From the (date) Grapevine. Reprinted with permission of the A.A.
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We ask that you do not reproduce items that are currently available on
the G.S.O. or A.A. Grapevine Web sites. Instead, link to the appropriate
pages of the sites: www.aa.org and www.aagrapevine.org.
We observe all A.A.'s principles and Traditions on A.A. Web sites.
Anonymity—As anonymity is the "spiritual foundation of all our
Traditions," we practice anonymity on public A.A. Web sites at all times.
Unless password-protected and for members only, an A.A. Web site is
a public medium, and, therefore, requires the same safeguards that we
use at the level of press, radio and film. In simplest form, this means
that A.A.s do not identify themselves as A.A. members using their full
names and/or full-face photos. For more information on anonymity online,
see the section of this Guideline, "Guarding Anonymity Online."
Attraction not promotion—As our co-founder, Bill W., wrote: "Public
information takes many forms – the simple sign outside a meeting place
that says 'A.A. meeting tonight'; listing in local phone directories; distribution
of A.A. literature; and radio and television shows using sophisticated
media techniques. Whatever the form, it comes down to 'one drunk carrying
the message to another drunk,' whether through personal contact
or through the use of third parties and the media.
Self-support—In keeping with our Seventh Tradition, A.A. pays its own
expenses and this also applies in cyberspace. To avoid confusion and to
guard against the perception of affiliation, endorsement or promotion, care
should be taken in selection of the Web site host. Web site committees have
avoided any host site that requires the inclusion of mandatory advertising
space or links to commercial sites.
Nonaffiliation, nonendorsement—Linking to other A.A. Web sites
will often have the positive effect of significantly broadening the
scope of a site. However, even when linking to another A.A. site, care
must be exercised since each A.A. entity is autonomous, has its own
group conscience, and may display information that another A.A.
group conscience might find objectionable. There is no way to know
when this might occur.
Experience indicates that linking to non-A.A. sites is even more problematic.
Not only are they much more likely to display non-A.A. and/or controversial
material, but linking might imply endorsement, if not affiliation.
In the final analysis, experience strongly suggests that, when considering
linking to another site, proceed with caution.
The same caution is advised when choosing a Web hosting site.
Many "free" Web hosting services require that the Web site include
mandatory advertisements or links. Most A.A. Web site committees
see this as actual or implied affiliation or endorsement of the products
or services listed in those ads. They have found it prudent to
create a Web site through a service that does not include mandatory
advertisements or links.
G.S.O. has attempted to avoid some of these pitfalls on G.S.O.'s A.A.
Web site, aa.org, by confining its links to known A.A. service entities and
by incorporating a mandatory exit statement when someone wishes to
activate the outside links on the site. (This statement also covers access
to application software such as Adobe Reader, which is provided to assist
visitors in reading Portable Document Format (PDF) files.)
GUARDING ANONYMITY ONLINE
Modern communication in A.A. is flowing from one alcoholic to another
in ways that are high-tech, relatively open-ended and evolving quickly.
Protecting anonymity is a major concern for members, who are accessing
the Internet in ever-growing numbers.
A guiding resource of shared A.A. experience regarding Web sites is
the G.S.O. service piece "Frequently Asked Questions About A.A. Web
Sites," question seven:
Q. What about anonymity?
We observe all A.A.'s principles and Traditions on our Web sites.
Since anonymity is "the spiritual foundation of all our Traditions,"
we practice anonymity on A.A. Web sites at all times. An A.A. Web
site is a public medium, which has the potential for reaching the
broadest possible audience and, therefore, requires the same
safeguards that we use at the level of press, radio and film.
GENERAL SOCIAL NETWORKING WEB SITES
Facebook and other social networking Web sites 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-
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 Web site, blog, electronic bulletin board, etc., that is not composed
solely of A.A. members and not password protected, or is accessible
to the public.
Web sites like Facebook 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 Web sites 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.
However, our experience suggests that A.A.-related groups and events
are better listed as "closed" or invitation-only groups. Even then, some
A.A.s may not wish to be contacted for an A.A. event on their personal
social networking page — they may feel their anonymity is breached
by being included in an invitation list that can be viewed by all invitees.
Perhaps a better option is to create a completely "private" group which
does not appear in any group searches or on any personal profiles, and
is by invitation to fellow A.A.s only. Currently, this seems to be the closest
option for trying to recreate the atmosphere of a "closed" A.A. meeting
and would maintain members' anonymity most effectively.
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 Web sites. 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 re—
main within the Traditions on Facebook and other social networking Web
sites. 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.
ANONYMITY AND E-MAIL
Electronic mail is a widely used and accepted method of communication.
It is now used regularly as a service tool in A.A., but as with any service,
we need to ensure the Fellowship's Traditions are maintained while still
receiving the most benefit from this form of communication.
When using e-mail it is necessary to consider the anonymity of the
recipients of messages. Sending messages to multiple recipients that
disclose the e-mail addresses of everyone on the addressee list is
a potential break of someone else's anonymity. Therefore, it is a good
idea to obtain a recipient's explicit permission before using his or her
e-mail address for A.A. correspondence, especially if it is a workplace email
address. When sending A.A. mail to multiple recipients who wish to
remain anonymous, use can be made of the BCC (Blind Courtesy Copy)
option available on most computers.
"PRIVATE" SECTIONS OF A.A. WEB SITES
G.S.O. has heard of some districts and areas that have designated certain
parts of their Web sites as "private," which require the use of usernames
and passwords to gain entrance. In some instances, the only requirement
to receive a username and password is to state to the Web master or another
trusted servant that you are an A.A. member. In other cases, access
is only available to those holding specific service positions.
Web site committees that are considering creating password-protected
sections of their Web sites may wish to consider: what content is private
and what is public; who will be given access to the private information,
and how; and how usernames and passwords will be communicated,
stored and/or maintained.
Some Web sites use these private sections to change or update
meeting information or trusted servant contact information. When giving
the ability to a service worker to change content on a Web site or
database, committees may wish to proceed with care. Members with
the ability to change content may need training on the software used,
and the committee may want to designate someone to review the data
To date, G.S.O. has not heard of any major problems regarding non-
A.A.s retrieving confidential A.A. information from these private sections.
However, Web site committees may wish to discuss how they
will safeguard confidential A.A. information, and how to avoid a breach
A.A.'s shared experience thus far is that some A.A. members feel comfortable
using their full names and giving personal contact information
on a password-protected A.A. Web site. However, other members are
less comfortable providing this information for communication purposes,
even for a password-protected site. Committees usually exercise care in
helping members learn about new modes of communication, and continue
to offer members the option of receiving A.A. correspondence by
mail if preferred.
G.S.O. has some experience with private, password-protected A.A.
sites. First, the A.A.W.S. Directors and then the General Service
Board of Trustees agreed to receive their background information via a
"dashboard"—a username/password protected electronic communication
tool. In 2008, the General Service Conference members also received
their background information on a private dashboard for the first
time. (All Conference members were also given the choice of receiving
their background on CD and/or on paper.)
POSTING SERVICE MINUTES AND REPORTS
Deciding what contents to post on public Web sites requires careful consideration.
As it is helpful when Web sites make minutes of meetings, reports
and background material readily available to a broad population, it
is also paramount to keep in mind that these documents may be posted
in a public medium. Each document needs to be reviewed and edited to
insure that the full names of A.A. members are not included.
Some committees have one version of minutes for A.A. members only,
which includes full names and personal phone numbers and e-mail
addresses, and a second version of the report that omits names and
personal contact information so that minutes can be placed on the committee's
public Web site.
In addition to local A.A. members, please remember that the following
individuals are A.A. members and that their full names and photographs
should not appear in publicly posted reports or on publicly posted flyers:
Class B (alcoholic) General Service Board Trustees, A.A.W.S. and
Grapevine Directors, G.S.O. staff members and some Grapevine and La
Viña employees. If there is any doubt about placing a person's full name
in a report, it would be best to ask permission first.
Some committees may find it perfectly acceptable to post full names and
personal contact information on a password-protected Web site meant
for A.A. members only. This will be up to the informed group conscience
SPEAKER TALKS ONLINE
Members report that audio files of A.A. talks increasingly are being disseminated
over the Internet. If a member objects to having his or her A.A.
story broadcast publicly, he or she may wish to contact the site's Web
master and request its removal.
Numerous members have acted, with good outcomes, on the following
suggestion for speakers at A.A. events that appears in the G.S.O. service
piece A.A. Guidelines for Conferences, Conventions and Roundups:
Experience shows that it is best to encourage speakers not to
use full names and not to identify third parties by full names in
their talks. The strength of our Anonymity Traditions is reinforced
by speakers who do not use their last names and by taping companies
whose labels and catalogs do not identify speakers by last
names, titles, service jobs or descriptions.
In addition, some A.A. members, if being recorded for future play on a
public Web site, may choose to leave out other details of their lives that
may make themselves or their families identifiable.
In 2008, the trustees' Public Information Committee requested that
G.S.O. contact speaker talk companies and remind them of A.A.'s
Tradition of Anonymity at the public level and ask for their cooperation.
PERSONAL PHONE NUMBERS ON A.A. EVENT FLYERS
Until relatively recently, A.A. members usually had little concern about
placing their first names, last initials and personal phone numbers on flyers
announcing upcoming A.A. events, since these flyers were typically
given out only in A.A. meetings, left on tables at other A.A. events or
distributed to members. Today, event flyers can be easily uploaded and
viewed on Web sites, accessible to the general public.
Due to search services on the Internet, it is now possible to utilize phone
2.5M - 10/10 (PS) www.aa.org MG-18
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numbers to find out a person's identity, including full names and, possibly,
other personal information. If A.A. members become increasingly
uneasy with personal phone numbers being placed on flyers, event committees
may need to look into alternate ways of providing contact information
such as an event e-mail address.
USING FULL NAMES IN E-MAILS TO PROFESSIONALS
It is suggested that e-mail communication with professionals is similar
to a letter-mailing project with two caveats: 1) e-mails can easily be forwarded,
and 2) the contents of e-mails can easily be cut-and-pasted,
changed and/or uploaded to Web sites.
Professional "friends of A.A." have shared that, for the purposes of
Cooperation With the Professional Community (C.P.C.) or Public
Information (P.I.) service, it lends credibility to the letter or e-mail if a full
name is used and if the letter or e-mail has a professional look and feel.
The Public Information coordinator at G.S.O. responds to e-mail and letter
requests from the media with the following signature:
John Doe (name not for publication)
Coordinator of Public Information
ANONYMITY ON PERSONAL COMPUTERS
Some A.A.s think, "I have my own computer, so I have nothing to fear
about the anonymity of A.A.s in my address book." However, it is possible
that a motivated individual could obtain a username and password
to access another person's e-mail account. Hopefully, such an intrusion
would not occur, but it may be prudent to select a password that is as
unique as possible and to keep the password private.
Even the most guarded e-mail account could be "hacked" by a computer
expert, but at this point we find that many A.A. members and committees
are willing to take this risk, all the while utilizing prudence and good
We may also want to consider that e-mail address books used for A.A.
correspondence on a home personal computer, Macintosh, laptop, PDA,
Blackberry, etc., may be available to friends and family if more than one
person uses the device.
E-MAIL IN A.A.—ACCESS, ADDRESSES AND ROTATION
It is not necessary to own a personal computer or laptop to utilize e-mail.
Many A.A. members in service who do not have computers use free
e-mail services to obtain an e-mail account and specifically designate
it as their A.A. e-mail service. A.A. members can check their e-mail accounts
at public libraries, Internet cafes, and anywhere else Internet
service is available.
For A.A. service positions, generic e-mail addresses can be passed from
one trusted servant to another at rotation time. For example, the sample
e-mail address and account for email@example.com could,
upon rotation, be passed on, maintaining the e-mail address identity for
the position, one rotation to the next.
THE DANGERS OF SPAM
It is up to a committee's informed group conscience to determine how
best to approach service projects via the Internet, especially regarding
C.P.C. or P.I. projects.
It is strongly suggested that A.A. members not send bulk unsolicited
e-mail messages for A.A. service, i.e., e-mail "mail shots." By doing so they
could be bringing the A.A. name into public controversy and damaging the
reputation of A.A. as a whole. It may also be illegal, so get informed on the
local and federal laws pertaining to e-mail communication and spam.
Instead, the committee could discuss the possibility of sending A.A.
correspondence to a small number of recipients or sending personalized
e-mails one at a time. E-mails may be filtered into a recipient's
spam account so an alternative follow-up plan should also be in place in
case there is no initial response. In addition to A.A. members continuing
to make personal contacts, an effective route for interacting with professionals
and the public has been to provide the link to G.S.O.'s A.A. Web site,
ONLINE A.A. MEETINGS
Just like regular A.A. meetings, online A.A. meetings are autonomous.
Due to the lack of a central geographic location, online A.A. meetings are
not a direct part of the U.S./Canada service structure. A.A. members are
encouraged to participate in service where they physically reside and
to participate in group conscience decisions locally. In addition, some
online A.A. meetings have business meetings and collect Seventh
INTERNET STREAMING AND WEB CONFERENCING
Among A.A. members, there are various levels of experience in the use
of computers, e-mail and the Internet. It is important to remember that
not all A.A. members have computers and not all who have access are
comfortable using this technology. Some people are just now signing
up for their first e-mail accounts, while some are talking about things
like "Internet streaming," "Teleconferencing technology," and "Web
Since these topics are relatively new, G.S.O. is still collecting shared
experience. One district has shared that they are considering how to
utilize Internet streaming and/or teleconference/Web technology so that
general service representatives (G.S.R.s) may participate in area assemblies
without traveling to the assembly site. They are considering
several options: video and audio conference; audio-only conference; fullstream
one-way video and audio with text chat return.
Many technological options are possible and, presumably, more are
being developed each day. Yet, as stated earlier, it is important not to
let the speed of technological development pressure a committee into
a quick solution as opposed to a well-thought-out A.A.-oriented decision.
Of course, all decisions must include careful consideration of any
situations where an A.A. member's anonymity could be compromised at
the public level.
LOCAL SHARED EXPERIENCE REQUESTED
Local A.A. needs and experience will determine how A.A. communications
will develop in this evolving electronic age. If you have questions, or
if you would like to share your Web site committee's experience, please
contact G.S.O. at:
General Service Office
P.O. Box 459
Grand Central Station
New York, NY 10163
Tel: (212) 870-3400
Webmaster: The webmaster is responsible for developing and maintaining the district website. This includes, but is not limited to, listing current A.A. events and functions, committee actions, district meeting minutes, newsletters, and district meeting schedules. The website information should be governed by the following principles:
- Attraction not promotion