Content provided by  A.A. Intergroup of SF & Marin

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 handle the more disruptive participants.

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, turn off: Autosaving chats, file transfer, screen sharing, and remote control.

Identify a Meeting Secretary AND a Co-Host

For starters, elect a co-host 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-host focuses 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.

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

Manage Disruptive Participants During a Meeting

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 meetings and anyone who plans to co-host a meeting at any time.

Remove Participants 

  1. During the meeting, click Manage to display the participants list.
  2. Hover over a participant and click More for these options:
  3. Click Remove

Locking the Meeting to Prevent Re-Joining of Removed Participants

During the meeting, a host can see More and Mute All Controls at the bottom of the Participants list.

    1. On the Participants List, click Lock Meeting to prevent other participants to join the meeting in progress.

Muting All Participants

During the meeting, a host can see More and Mute All Controls at the bottom of the Participants list.

  1. On the Participants List, click Mute All to mute all meeting attendees.

Suggested Other Zoom Features

Consider enabling the Waiting Room for your meeting. You then play an active role 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.
  • CPIC 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.