These guidelines are compiled from the shared experience of MA members and is a work in progress. Guidance is given through the Twelve Traditions of Marijuana Anonymous and the group conscience of the MA World Services Internet Committee. In keeping with our tradition of autonomy, except in matters affecting other groups or MA as a whole, most decisions are made by the group conscience of members involved. The purpose of these guidelines is to assist in reaching an informed group conscience.
MA Traditions and the Internet
We observe all MA’s principles and traditions on the Internet.
As anonymity is the “spiritual foundation of all our traditions,” we practice anonymity at all times on the Internet.
Unless a MA website is password-protected and for members only, it must be considered public, and therefore requires the same safeguards that we use at the level of press, radio, TV, film, and other public media. This means that people should not identify themselves as MA members using their full names and/or full-face photos. For more information on anonymity online, see the Guarding Anonymity Online section.
Attraction, not promotion
The 12 Step program pioneer, Bill W. suggested that Public Information takes many forms – the simple sign outside a meeting place, listings in local phone directories, distribution of MA literature, and the use of sophisticated media techniques. Whatever the form, it comes down to one marijuana addict carrying the message to another marijuana addict, whether through personal contact or through the use of third parties and the media.
In keeping with our Seventh Tradition, MA pays its own expenses and this also applies to the Internet. To avoid confusion and to guard against the perception of affiliation, endorsement, or promotion, care should be taken in selection of Internet services. MA websites and services should avoid using providers that require mandatory advertising or links to commercial websites.
Linking to other MA websites will broaden the scope of the site. However, even when linking to another MA website, care must be exercised since each MA entity is autonomous, has its own group conscience, and may display information that another MA group conscience might find objectionable.
Linking to non-MA websites can be problematic. Not only are they much more likely to display non-MA and/or controversial material, but linking might imply endorsement, if not affiliation.
Guarding Anonymity Online
Protecting anonymity is a major concern for MA members.
What about anonymity?
Since anonymity is “The spiritual foundation of all our traditions,” always practice this principle on the Internet. A website is a public medium with the potential to reach the broadest possible audience and, therefore, requires the same safeguards that we use at the level of press, radio, TV, film, and other public media.
On the Internet, we are responsible for our own anonymity and that of all other MA members. When posting information, social media updates, or blogging, assume that information is available at the public level. When we break our anonymity in these public places, we may inadvertently break the anonymity of others.
Social networking websites
Facebook and other social networking websites are public in nature. Though users create accounts utilizing usernames and passwords, once on the site, it is a public medium where MA members and non-members mingle.
As long as individuals do not in any way identify themselves as MA members, there is no conflict of interest. However, anyone who identifies themselves as a MA member while using their full name and/or a photograph, would be acting contrary to the spirit of the Eleventh Tradition, which suggests that our last names and pictures as MA members ought not be broadcast, filmed, or publicly printed.
In keeping with the Eleventh Tradition, do not to disclose anyone’s MA membership through mobile apps, websites, social networking sites, blogs, or online forums that are accessible to the public.
Online social networking websites have personal information that can be available to various audiences. MA members should not post anything that is MA related including “MA jargon” in their personal profiles or in “status updates.”
Social media users often have the ability to create so-called “private” groups and events. Some MA members have chosen to use this to create MA-related groups. Our experience has shown that the evolving nature of social networking platforms makes it difficult to provide specific guidance for using such resources for MA purposes. Any MA member or group thinking about social media websites should closely consider the site’s privacy policies in light of MA’s tradition of anonymity. For example, social networking sites often provide full names and pictures of group members, which would be contrary to MA’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.
No local online MA or non-MA entity should purport itself to be a spokesperson for MA or act as if they represent MA World Services. Each MA entity is autonomous and encouraged to make decisions by informed group conscience decision in light of the guidance provided in our Twelve Traditions.
Member photographs on the Internet
Always ask permission before sharing photos of any MA member on online social media or photography websites (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Flickr, etc.). Let subjects know where you will be posting the pictures and give people a chance to opt out. Respect anonymity and privacy by not posting anyone’s picture without their permission. Do not post a group picture without everyone’s approval. Never identify any picture as a MA member, group, or event. If you posted a picture and someone in the picture asks you to remove it, respect their privacy by removing the picture.
Personal photography sites such as Adobe, Google Photos, etc are not considered “public” sites when they are designated as private and only those with the specific link have access. Therefore, posting photos with name & affiliation to MA is allowed AS LONG AS the link to the photos shall never be made public. If a member shares photos on a public site, then they must ensure that that name and affiliation to MA is not added. In the case of sharing photos of a group of MA members WITH their name / identity shown, it is only allowable as long as no affiliation with MA is made.
Tagging photos with a person’s name can create a network of personal connections and events that can inadvertently compromise the anonymity of members. Respect anonymity and privacy by avoiding this practice. If you tagged someone and they object, respect their privacy by untagging them.
MA Websites — Setting Up A Local Website
Decisions in the Fellowship of Marijuana Anonymous are usually made through an informed group conscience and the decision to create a website is no different. Whether MA meeting/group, MA district, or MA World Services, experience suggests forming a committee to discuss all aspects including all possible concerns about the Traditions.
The spiritual nature of one marijuana addict talking to another is an ongoing concern when discussing MA information over the Internet. Even many Internet-savvy MA members say 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. It is helpful to remember that there is no need to let the speed of technology dictate the speed of our actions.
Roles and responsibilities
After an informed group conscience structure is in place to development a new MA website, determine the policies and procedures on how to maintain the website and it’s content. It is suggested that a Internet Committee Chairperson be appointed or elected. The Internet committee and its chairperson are responsible to the group(s) served and are typically responsible for the day-to-day maintenance of the website.
Some committees may choose to create their own guidelines for: description of the site’s purpose, details of the website’s content, procedures for adding or removing content, committee rotation schedule, defining the difference between an Internet committee and a website maintenance team (e.g. Webmaster or alternate), and guidelines for the Internet committee outlining its composition and responsibilities.
Selecting a domain Name
The choice of a domain name should be determined, as with other critical elements, by an informed group conscience. It has been our experience that groups often integrate “ma” into their domain names along with other identifying information (e.g., www.madistrict11.org or www.ma-sf.org).
Copyright restrictions protect material displayed on websites just as copyrights protect MA’s printed literature. Permission must be obtained from MA World Services prior to displaying MA literature.
Just as with MA newsletters, MA websites can quote a phrase, sentence, or brief paragraph excerpted from MA literature — such as Life with Hope, the MA Service Manual or Conference-approved pamphlets — without a prior, written request. When this occurs, a proper credit line should be included to ensure that MA literature copyrights are protected. After a brief quotation from a book or pamphlet, the following credit line should appear:
© Marijuana Anonymous World Services (date). Reprinted by permission.
We ask that you do not reproduce items that are currently available on the MA World Services websites, rather, you are encouraged to link to them.
Posting Service minutes and reports
Deciding what content to post publicly requires careful consideration. It is helpful when groups make minutes of meetings, reports, and background material readily available to the larger group, and public access should be kept in mind when writing documents. Each document needs to be reviewed and edited to insure that full names of members are not included. Some committees have an internal version of minutes for members only, which includes full names, personal phone numbers and email addresses, and a public version of the report that omits names and personal contact information.
Personal phone numbers on event flyers & websites
Until relatively recently, MA members had little concern about placing their first names, last initials and personal phone numbers on flyers announcing upcoming MA events, since these flyers were typically given out at MA meetings, left on tables at other MA events, or distributed to members. Today, event flyers can be easily uploaded and viewed on websites accessible to the general public.
Using Internet search services, it is possible to search phone numbers to discover a person’s identity, including full names and other personal information. If MA 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 announcement phone line or using a non-personal email address.
“Private” sections of websites
Some groups may consider limiting certain parts of their websites as “private,” requiring the use of usernames and passwords to gain entrance. In some instances, the only requirement to receive a username and password is to state they are a MA member. In other cases, access is only available to those holding specific service positions.
Internet Committees that are considering creating password-protected areas on their websites 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.
To date, MA World Services has not heard of any major problems regarding non-members retrieving sensitive MA information from MA websites. However, Internet committees may wish to discuss how they will safeguard member information and how to avoid a breach in security.
MA’s shared experience thus far is that some MA members feel comfortable using their full names and giving personal contact information on a password-protected MA website. However, other members are less comfortable providing this information for communication purposes, even for a password-protected site. Internet committees usually help educate and inform members about what can safely be published on public and private sections of websites.
Anonymity and Email
Electronic mail is a widely used and an accepted method of communication. It is commonly used as a service tool in MA, but as with any service, we need to ensure that the Fellowship’s traditions are maintained. When using email, it is necessary to consider the anonymity of the recipients of messages. Sending email messages to multiple recipients may disclose the email addresses of everyone on the addressee list, which 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 email address for MA correspondence, especially if it is a workplace email address. When sending MA email to multiple recipients who wish to remain anonymous, use the email BCC (Blind Courtesy Copy) feature, or use a email list group in which everyone’s email address is hidden.
Email in MA — Access, addresses, and rotation
For MA service positions, generic or role email addresses can be passed from one trusted servant to another. For example, the email address and account for firstname.lastname@example.org could, upon rotation, be passed on, maintaining the email address identity for the role, one rotation to the next.
Using full names in emails to professionals
It is suggested that email communication with professionals is similar to a letter-mailing with two caveats: 1) emails can easily be forwarded, and 2) the contents of emails can easily be cut-and-pasted, changed and/or uploaded to websites.
Professional “friends of MA” have shared that public information has more credibility when it is signed with a full name and when it has a professional look and feel. The Public Information Trustee of MA World Services responds to email and letter requests from the media with the following signature:
Rick Jones (name not for publication)
Coordinator of Public Information
Marijuana Anonymous World Services
Anonymity on personal computers
Some MA members think, “I have my own computer, so I have nothing to fear about preserving the anonymity of MA members in my address book.” However, it is possible that a motivated individual could hack in to access another person’s computer or email account. Hopefully, such an intrusion would not occur, but be safe by using a strong, unique password. Also consider that address books may be accessible by others if your personal computer, laptop, tablet, PDA, smartphone, etc., is used by multiple people.
The dangers of Spam
It is strongly suggested that MA members not send bulk, unsolicited email messages about MA. By doing so they could be bringing the MA name into public controversy and damaging the reputation of MA as a whole. Committees should discuss the possibility of sending MA correspondence to a limited group of members or even one member at a time.
Speaker Talks Online
Members report that audio files of MA talks are increasingly available over the Internet. Permission should always be obtained first, of course. If a member objects to having his or her MA story broadcast publicly, he or she may wish to contact the site’s Webmaster and request its removal.
Before making a recording at MA events, consider the following suggestions for speakers. Encourage speakers in advance not to use full names and not to identify third parties by full names in their talks. The strength of our anonymity tradition is reinforced by speakers who do not use their last names. Members may want to leave out details of their lives that may make themselves or their families identifiable.
Online MA Meetings
Just like in-person MA meetings, online MA meetings are anonymous, autonomous, have business meetings and collect Seventh Tradition contributions. MA members are encouraged to participate with District 13 which is entirely online (see www.ma-online.org).
Internet Streaming and Web Conferencing
Among MA members, there are various levels of experience in the use of computers, email, and the Internet. It is important to remember that not all MA members have computers that can be used for Internet streaming or audio/video conferencing.
Since these topics are relatively new, MA World Services is still collecting shared experience and evaluating new options. For example, MA World Services committees are considering how to utilize Internet technologies so that delegates may participate in the annual MA World Service Conference without traveling. As stated earlier, it is important not to let the speed of technological development pressure us into a quick solution as opposed to a well thought out, MA-oriented decision.
Local Shared Experience Requested
Local MA experience will determine how MA communications will develop in the evolving Internet. If you have questions, or if you would like to share your Internet committee’s experience, please contact the MA World Service Internet committee:
Email: net (at) marijuana-anonymous.org
MA Connection Forum: www.marijuana-anonymous.org/forum