A framework for information incidents: five levels of severity

18 December 2020 | Nicola Aitken and Phoebe Arnold

This year Full Fact has been developing a new collaborative model for tackling information incidents, with funding support from Facebook. 

Information incidents happen where the information environment changes in a way that merits an exceptional and often collaborative response above and beyond ‘business as normal’. Examples from recent years include the coronavirus pandemic, terror attacks, the EU referendum and the bubbling up of 5G conspiracy theories.

So far, we have looked at the types of incidents a framework could be applied to, and set out the common challenges which are likely to arise within an individual incident, and how we – collectively and as individual organisations – should aim to respond.

In December, we convened a discussion to further develop the indicators to determine risk outlined in our first paper, to identify five levels of severity that an incident could be classified as - and to enable proportionate responses which can be ramped up as required. 

Once a sense of the incident’s severity has been established, the next step is to consult the framework which offers direction on how to tackle the challenges which are occurring, in ways that are proportionate to severity. This is covered in our second paper, which looks at what challenges are likely to arise within an individual incident, and how organisations can respond individually, and in concert with other organisations.

We are publishing this third paper (pdf) to encourage wider feedback on how our thinking is developing. We would be interested to hear thoughts from other organisations who are involved in responding to bad information on:

  • Are these five levels of severity clear to you?
  • Are these applicable to real examples you have experience of dealing with?
  • What types of responses would you expect to take in each level? How would you expect the response to levels differ, for example from level 2 to level 4?

The first draft of a framework will be published in early 2021, which will bring together all of these different elements. 

If you have any feedback on this paper, or would like to contribute to this work, please contact us. Please note we may be unable to respond to every contribution. 

Download our third draft paper of the framework

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