Just as in the physical rooms, meetings on Zoom feature resentments, ringing phones, and other disturbances. In fact, some SF/Marin groups, particularly women’s meetings, are experiencing  sexually predatory and violent behavior from meeting participants.

While this, too can happen in physical meeting rooms, the anonymity of the internet provides a shield for the predators. Fortunately, while not possible to maintain absolute security, there are a number of features available to keep meetings safe. 

These are suggestions only. It is up the group conscience on what meeting settings to set for safe meeting management. As guidance, view the AA brochure:  View Safety and A.A. Meetings: Our Common Welfare>

Requiring  Zoom Registration

The Intergroup Board and staff have discussed the question of whether to list meetings that require registration; we’ve surveyed our local fellowship; and we’ve had dialog with many other intergroups and central offices around the country.

Our position is that registration forces attendees to give up their privacy to a third party, and does not contribute to protecting meetings from disruption.

The only way to prevent disruption altogether is to know everyone in advance who has access.  As long as the meeting is accessible to newcomers or other strangers, someone using a throwaway email address, with intent to disrupt, can attend. This is why we support in-meeting security and management practices as they are both effective and inclusive.

Disruptors are probably more likely to look for readily-accessible meetings than to email for a password, which would make this method (our option #3) the safest; this also gives newcomers and visitors some interaction with an actual AA member, as opposed to an impersonal, corporate barrier to entry.

Set Safe Meeting Default Settings 

On the Zoom Settings page, turn off participant controls:

  1. Sign into Zoom.us.
  2. Click on the Settings link on the left.
  3. On the right side of the page,  in the “In Meeting (Basic)” section and turn off: Autosaving chats, file transfer, screen sharing, annotations, whiteboard, and remote control.
  4. Go to the “In Meeting (Advanced)” section and turn off: virtual background, far end camera control, auto-answer group in chat.

Settings Tab on Zoom

Identify a Meeting Secretary AND a Co-Host

For starters, elect two to four co-hosts, depending on the size of the meeting whose role is to shoulder the weight of maintaining order during the online meeting by managing the participants.  This allows the meeting secretary to focus on the meeting,  while the co-hosts focus on managing participants and the meeting controls. Co-hosts are assigned during a meeting and cannot start a meeting. 

Assign a Co-Host

  1. Sign into Zoom.us.
  2. Click on the Settings link on the left of the screen.
  3. Scroll down to the Co-host option on the Meeting tab and verify that the setting is enabled.
  4. Turn on Co-Host. If a verification dialog displays, choose Turn On to verify the change.

cohost control

More instructions for setting up a co-host of a meeting in Zoom>

Manage Disruptive Participants During a Meeting

Meeting hosts can now access a Security window in Zoom to quickly remove participants and turn on and off some controls. Review this update here. 

Security Window

security toolbar

From this window, you can “Remove Participant,” which is the quickest way to remove a meeting disrupter. You can also turn off chat, sharing screens, and participant renaming from this window.

Meeting Participants Window

The Meeting Participants window offers control over most aspects of your meeting and those attending. Zoom has a 10 minute long video that is recommended viewing for all meeting secretaries who host Zoom meetings and anyone who plans to co-host a meeting at any time.

Desktop Participants

In the “Manage Participants” window, you can also manage disruptive participants. 

  1. Click on “Manage Participants” on the Zoom toolbar. 
  2. Find disruptive attendee’s name and then click “Mute” or “Stop Video.”
  3. Click on “More” and select “Remove.”

Participants list

Chat Settings

Toolbar Chat

  1. Click on Chats on the Zoom toolbar.
  2. Click on the “More” button on the bottom of the Chat window.
  3. Under “Allow Participants to Chat With” heading, select “Host Only” or “No One.”

View our comprehensive suggestions on how to handle disruptive participants during a meeting>

Suggested Other Zoom Features

The Waiting Room feature is now the default for each meeting set up with a Basic (free) and single-license Pro account. While you can turn it off, it allows the host and co-hosts to play an active role in choosing who to allow into the room through the participants list. 

Consider disabling Join Before Host to keep users out before the host arrives. When “Join Before Host” is enabled anyone can enter at anytime.

Consider restricting In-Meeting Chat to reach only host only during the meeting. Many meetings open it up for fellowship after the meeting.

Other Suggestions for Setting Up Meetings to Keep Safe From Disruptive Attendees

  • You can also take a group conscience regarding screen sharing, mute and unmute privileges, chat settings among participants and more.
  • Make sure your zoom meeting is set up for anonymity by disabling these settings.
  • Hold a steering committee meeting using a private link sent to the meeting’s phone list. Take a group conscious on how to secure the meetings and keep them safe.
  • Ensure that all meeting secretaries have access to Host controls so they can take control of the meeting when the safety of the members are compromised.
  • Train the host/secretary on how to kick out attendees who become disruptive.
  • For closed meetings: Consider using a private Zoom meeting link for the meeting and send only to phone list members.
  • Newcomers: Consider hosting newcomer meetings with public links, but enable the Waiting Room, so the host/secretary has to allow everyone in the meeting.
  • Public Information / Cooperation with the Professional Community Committees or H&I Reps – Consider reaching out to local rehab centers and let them know about new safety protocols.

We are Responsible

It is unfortunate that we have a need to address this issue, but doing so and keeping online meetings going will do more to allow the sick and suffering alcoholic to find us than taking meetings underground will. Keep in mind our Responsibility Statement:

I am responsible…
When anyone, anywhere,
reaches out for help, I want
the hand of A.A. always to be there.
And for that: I am responsible.

Additional Resources

We offer these links with the stipulation that not all of their suggestions can be applied while maintaining openness that is a part of the program of Alcoholics Anonymous.