Dealing with trolls in Zoom meetings

From “As Bill Sees It”, page 28:

Troublemakers Can Be Teachers
Few of us are any longer afraid of what any newcomer can do to our A.A. reputation or effectiveness. Those who slip, those with mental twists, those who rebel at the program, those who trade on the A.A. reputation — all such persons seldom harm an A.A. group for long.

If anyone is wondering how to handle potential situations where people may join your online meetings with the intent to disrupt them, here is some information to help you prepare. Having a host and a co-host will allow you to deal with these situations as a team.

Below is an excerpt of an excellent post by Austin R that I read in the Technology in AA Forum where he shares his experience acting as co-host in an online AA Zoom meeting:

Another excellent resource graciously shared by Reagan of Intergroup Association of AA New York is a “Zoom protection guide” complete with screen shots. Click here to download it.

Austin’s post:
Having been a co-host here’s a reflection on what I’ve found to be effective for our meetings (Usually between 20-50 attendees) and what it means to be something of a Zoom Bouncer:

As a co-host, whose job it is to secure our meeting from unsafe attendees and disruptions, we have to basically forego the normal “meeting experience” for something quite different. It’s kind of a tense experience at first- particularly during an attack. But having done it a couple times, it gets easier, and actually kind of fun. All in all, it’s a pretty awesome and unique service position.

Some of my reflections as a “troll bouncer” are below. Love and tolerance, yes, but vigilance and action should be our watchwords during the meetings.

  1. Keep an eye on people who join the meeting.
    a) Look for names that are suspicious or obviously offensive. Some examples of typical troll names might be: “Jack Hoff”, “Richard Hertz”, “Phil Myas”
    b) Look for pictures that are suspicious or obviously offensive.
    c) If meetings have “Virtual Background Enabled” (most of ours do), note that users can play offensive porn videos using this option.
  2. Live people, while actually on camera, can show offensive pictures or do offensive things while their video is playing. Watch for this. However, most of the trolls will wait until they’ve been unmuted and have the spotlight video before they do something truly offensive. Some are very clever and will even begin to share as if they’re a newcomer… so, be careful.
  3. Setting the “Mute on entry” and “Disable users to unmute themselves” options are key if/when trolls arrive. It’s important to communicate to the other members what we’re doing and why. This might be somebody’s first experience with disturbing trolls and/or with having a little bit more restrictions placed on the meeting format.
  4. After a meeting starts, disabling the “allow users to rename” option is helpful. What happens usually when a troll is removed, they’ll rejoin and change their name. This will let you re-kick them.
  5. This is also critical. Having tech-savvy co-hosts on a laptop can make all the difference. A laptop is like 10X more effective scrolling/clicking than on a tablet or phone. If trolls are cut off immediately and relentlessly, they tire quickly. If they get just a little bit of air time, they’ll keep coming back.
  6. Unity, qualified authorities, and perseverance is key. If the co-hosts stay on top of it, the trolls will get annoyed/bored and move on from the meeting. This, unfortunately, might transfer the problem to another meeting. However, if AA as a whole builds up their immune system to this kind of behavior, the bad actors will hopefully move on entirely.
Posted in Group/Meeting Information.