Step 1. Threat Map. Identify potential threat methods for analysis.
|Threat Type||Individual||Group Identity||Organization|
|Direct||Bullying; coordinated targeting; hateful, inflammatory, or embarrassing comments; threats of violence; upsetting content; gendered threats; sustained harassment; mob harassment; sexual harassment; stalking; doxxing; SWATing; and account takeovers/lockouts.||Tactics leveraging social cleavages (for example hate speech or dog whistles) such as race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status or class, gender, sexual orientation, religion, regional or national origin, citizenship status, occupation, employment status, age / generation, education, or political affiliation.||Coordinated targeting to organizational accounts; Denial of service or access to an organization’s content.|
|Indirect||Spreading of false or misleading information about an individual; defamatory information; disclosure of non-consensual intimate images; impersonation; hateful, inflammatory, or embarrassing comments.||Spreading of false or misleading information about a social group; hate speech directed towards a social group; divisive speech that may be either opposed or supportive of various social groups.||Mass internet shutdowns, establishing seemingly allied organizations to share disingenuous content; establishing opposition organizations to spread opposing viewpoints; imitation of the organization’s online presence(eg, typosquatting).|
|Ingestion||Persuasion of the individual to believe or biased towards inaccurate information.||Persuasion of groups to believe inaccurate information about other groups, sowing division or apathy or bolstering alliances.||Persuasion of the organization to use inaccurate information in decision making.|
|Generation||Creation, publishing, or sharing of misinformation, harassment against co-workers and others outside of the organization||Creation and spreading of misinformation; harassment against co-workers and others outside of the organization||Creation / spreading of misinformation, harassment against co-workers and others outside of the organization|
Step 2. Harm Map. Connect scenarios to potential harms for the organization or its individuals or groups of individuals.
|Harms to Self Determination|
|Loss of autonomy||Loss of autonomy includes needless changes in behavior, including self-imposed restrictions on freedom of expression or assembly.|
|Loss of liberty||Improper exposure to arrest or detainment. Even in democratic societies, false or negative information can lead to increased scrutiny, arrest or, abuse of governmental power.|
|Power imbalance||Information, or threat of disclosure, can create an inappropriate power imbalance or takes unfair advantage of a power imbalance between acquirer and the individual.|
|Physical harm||Actual physical harm to a person, including the potential to cause death.|
|Psychological harm||Information can cause psychological distress to the target such as increased anxiety, fear, and depression, possibly triggering reactions to previous trauma. This distress can also contribute to physical self-harm.|
|Loss of trust||The breach of implicit or explicit expectations about the character and behavior between individuals or organizations. Loss of trust can leave entities reluctant to engage in further cooperation.|
|Stigmatization||Information can create a stigma that can cause embarrassment, emotional distress or discrimination.|
|Financial losses||Harms due to a result of loss of employment, business relationships, increased government scrutiny, and imprisonment.|
|Loss of productivity||Inefficiencies due to decision-making based on inaccurate or misleading information leading to increased delays, false starts on program activities, or time spent sorting and verifying information for accuracy.|
|Loss of mission impact||Decreased impact due to organizational decision-making, activities that incorporate or promote inaccurate information, or from the influence of competing narratives on the organizations’ supported beneficiaries.|
|Loss of trust||Damage to trust with public and private entities such as individuals, partner organizations, funders, government agencies, and other external supporters.|
|Loss of morale||Damage to internal attitudes from individual embarrassment, emotional distress or discrimination due to association with the organization.|
|Discrimination||Groups within an organization or individuals may be unfairly judged, scrutinized, or excluded based on their actual or perceived group affiliation.|
|Stigmatization||Information can create a stigma that can cause embarrassment, emotional distress or discrimination of a certain group.|
|Direct financial losses||Lost time and money spent to counter false information or improve security.|
|Indirect financial losses||Lost funding and business relationships due to reputational damage or lack of productivity.|
Step 3. Threat Scenarios. Develop practical description of the threat and challenge assumptions.
|Adversary||What is the identity of the adversary responsible for the harmful information?|
What are the goals (if any) of an adversary sharing the harmful information?
What resources might an adversary have at their disposal?
|Content||Does the content contain personal information?|
Does the content threaten or create fear for one’s safety?
What elements of “truth” are contained in the message?
|Context||How is the harmful information delivered?|
When and how often are interactions taking place?
How might the harmful information affect current events or campaigns?
|Audience||Who is the intended recipient of the information?|
How could various stakeholders of the organization perceive the harmful information? What social norms might be violated?
How might the audience react to the harmful information?
How might law enforcement or government regulators react to the harmful information, if known?
|Legitimacy||What might give this threat legitimacy with an influential audience?|
Why might the threat’s message or methods be perceived as normatively acceptable?
How might those information sources already deemed legitimate by certain audiences spread or give additional credibility to the threat?
Who in power may spread or give credibility to the threat?
|Impersonation||How might an adversary take over or share information from an account belonging to the target?|
How might an adversary convince an audience that their information is being shared with the target’s approval?
How might an adversary bypass any vetting processes intended to ensure representations are made by authentic sources of information?
|Linking||How have associates of the target been subject to harmful information threats in the past?|
How might publicly disclosed information about associations of the target tie to additional harmful information threats?
How might historical information about the target’s associations and activities be used in combination with the threat?
|Amplification||How might an adversary disseminate information to a large audience?|
What is the current number of followers or subscribers of the adversary?
How might a harmful message move, intentionally or unintentionally, from less active online forums to more popular platforms?
How has an adversary’s message or similar threats been amplified in the past?
|Collection||How might sensitive information about the target be gathered by an adversary?|
How might a threat have been able to access, store, or share private information about the target?
How might publicly available information about the target give credibility to a threat?
|Suppressing||How might an adversary prevent opposing perspectives from being shared and heard?|
Why might the target be unable to use existing their information channels (website, social media accounts, newsletter) to counter the threat?
How might an audience be blocked from accessing the target’s information or counter-messaging?
Step 4: Mitigation Map. Select suitable controls to mitigate potential harms.
|Identify Harmful Information Risks|
|Identify Potential Threats||Consider threats to individuals, groups, or the organization|
Consider direct targeting, indirect attacks, ingestion, and generation
|Connect Threats to Potential Harms||Identify the impact of potential threats to individuals, groups, and the organization|
Consider physical, reputational, financial harms
|Create and Prioritize Threat Scenarios||Describe threat scenarios in detail|
Evaluate and prioritize scenarios based on likelihood and impact
|Identify Informal Practices or Formal Policies|
|Security (Physical or Digital) or Incident Response||Evaluate security risk management abilities and training.|
Consider how psychosocial risks are addressed in the risk assessment / management program.
Improve account security of organizational and personal social media accounts.
Decrease the online availability of personal information about staff members.
|Social Media Use||Evaluate acceptable social media use for organizational accounts, including response policy for comments and private messages.|
Identify monitoring protocols for mentions of your organization and staff members in social media, comments, and forums.
Consider how policies consider the subjective experience of online abuse.
|Communications and Public Relations strategy||Identify and evaluate the following:|
Media literacy and verification processes to avoid sharing and consuming misinformation.
Plans to address potential information threats in advance.
Existing messaging that addresses misinformation directly or offers constructive alternative narratives in outreach to funders and stakeholders
Contacts at social media platforms, media outlets, academia, government, and intermediaries that can support the organization during a crisis
“First page” search results for the organization and its members
|Human Resources or Employee Health & Wellness||Identify and evaluate the following:|
The ability and experience of members of historically disadvantaged or marginalized groups to report, respond, and recover from harmful information
Reporting and confidential disclosure mechanisms for online and offline abuse
Partnerships with programs offering mental health counseling, trainers, and other resources for victims and subjects of harmful information
|Workplace Ethics / Code of Conduct||Identify policies and practices regarding:|
Managing conflict of interests
Political endorsements and advocacy
|Evaluate Organizational Culture|
|Evaluate Organization’s capacity to address harmful information||Identify and evaluate the following:|
Buy-in to address concerns of misinformation and online abuse
Openness and transparency on areas for improvement
|Values||Identify and evaluate the following:|
|Performance||Identify and evaluate the following:|
How leadership and staff uphold organizational values
How staff and leadership perform and manage the identified policies or practices
|Improve Organization-Wide Digital Security|
|Maintaining confidentiality||Secure accounts (personal & organizational)|
Implement network monitoring
|Maintaining availability of information||Implement DoS Protection|
Enable Censorship Circumvention
|Maintain integrity of information||Enable domain spoofing protection. eg DMARC|
Enable DNS Hijacking protection (DNSSEC)
Register similar URLs
|Minimize the Availability of Potentially Harmful Information and Strengthen Communication Plan|
|Organizational Data Management||Implement data minimization strategy|
Conduct open source audit
Reducing or obfuscating available open source information on organization or members
|Personal Data Management||Review Old Social Media Posts|
Review Social Media Privacy Settings
|Maintain Social Media Management best practices||Create policies for how to engage with legitimate commentators versus “trolls” in public and via private messages.|
Maintain social media manager anonymity.
|Develop communication plan and social media policies||Create a strategy for when to let harmful information to “die out”, when to counter with direct refutations, or when to promote new narratives.|
Create messages in advance.
Connect with a network of journalists and fact-checkers.
Create advertising and automation strategies for messaging amplification.
Improve web presence and search engine optimization including strengthened networks of supporting sites.
Correct the record on authoritative sources such as Wikipedia.
|Implement Individual Detection|
|Develop individual skills to identify known strategies for creating harmful information||Verify the identity of new contacts, online and offline|
Familiarize with counterintelligence tradecraft
Avoid discussing politically or culturally sensitive topics with strangers
|Improve media literacy to reduce an organization’s susceptibility to its own digestion and spread of misinformation.||Teach source checking|
Implement content verification procedures
|Implement Organizational Detection|
|Implement manual content monitoring||Implement and train staff on reporting harmful (or suspected) online information, including seemingly innocuous behavior|
Create a plan to relieve subjects of abuse from self-monitoring
Create an emergency plan for manual monitoring of abuse campaigns by staff.
|Implement automatic content monitoring||Set free keyword notification tools such as Google Alerts|
Preset filtered feeds in tools such as TweetDeck
Employ social sensing or brand monitoring services
|Implement external content monitoring||Collaborate with other organizations to monitor and research developments in misinformation in one’s domain|
Create an intake plan for colleagues from other organizations that request help
|Physical Safety and Wellbeing||Train staff for initial shock: “breathe and connect with support, don’t handle this alone”|
Plan to move to safety if credible threats
“Better to be safe than sorry” policies
|Digital Security||Conduct Incident Response procedures|
|Gather Evidence and Stay Aware of Threats||Monitor and Archive (Tweetdeck, Dox Yourself, Hunch.ly, Archive.org, Google Alerts)|
Manage manual monitoring of abuse campaigns by co-workers accounting for burn-out.
|Next Stage Response|
|Prevent Escalation of Harms||Engage with platforms or intermediaries for removal of harmful content or automated accounts|
Use tools to identify, ignore, and/or block bots/trolls
|Execute Crisis Communication Plan||Engage with supporters and funders to keep them informed|
Inform public via media or other outlets (as needed)
|Engage legal protections from harassment or threats.||Notify law enforcement authorities if appropriate (SWATing prevention)|
Contact legal counsel for jurisdiction-based guidance
|Rebuild Psychological Resilience||Offer multiple avenues for coping|
Provide counseling services for employees
|Improve Physical Protections||Reassess physical vulnerabilities at work locations and increase protections as appropriate|
Revisit personal security plans for employees
|Recover Digital Safety||Reassess digital vulnerabilities and increase protections as appropriate|
|Repair Information Harms|
|Refine Communications Plan||Adjust messaging based on counternarratives and situation|
Engage with supporters and funders to keep them informed.
Inform public via media or other outlets
|Continue to use Platform-Specific Methods||Search engine optimization|
Search result downranking
Content removal processes such as Right to be Forgotten / DMCA
|Seek Legal Remedies||Contact legal counsel for jurisdiction-based guidance|
|Conduct a Formal After-Event Assessment||Learn how the organization could improve|
Learn and validate what people did well
Describe resources that you wish were available