Note that the tool can also be used for hate and threats against officials.
Step 1: Sorting and an initial risk assessment
In step 1, an overall sorting and a first assessment of the risk level of questions and cases is carried out.
Who does the risk assessment in step 1?
This step can be done by an individual and a group - for example, council/municipal secretaries, political secretaries or working groups. Step 1 provides a quick initial assessment of the risk of hate and threats.
If the tool becomes part of your case process, think about who will do the initial assessment. It is helpful if the same person or group does the assessment, for example, before a committee meeting.
Step by step
You choose one of three risk levels: high risk, moderate risk or no risk at all.
- Case. Name the case in a way that you usually refer to cases. Be careful not to include a name that may be sensitive or confidential.
- Risk of hate and threats. Then make your choice regarding the risk of hate and intimidation.
What to consider when answering
The judgement is subjective and based on your experience of similar cases or previous experience.
It can be a completely new issue or one that is already familiar. Rely on your intuitive sense of the potential for citizen reaction. You know how citizens in your municipality or region have reacted in the past when they have been upset.
Here are some things to consider when making your assessment:
- Have you received indications that the issue is infected from colleagues or elected representatives?
- Do you have previous experience of such issues leading to hatred and threats?
- Is there political tension around the issue?
- Are you aware that there is a lot of discussion about the issue on social media?
Once you have completed all cases and made risk assessments for each case, decide how you want to proceed in each case.
Step 2: A rapid risk assessment with 8 questions
You have proceeded to step 2 because the person or persons who made the initial assessment considered that there was a moderate or high risk of hate and intimidation against elected representatives (and/or officials). Step 2 applies to an individual case.
Who makes the assessment in step 2?
You may choose to involve colleagues with safety responsibilities and/or others who have additional knowledge of the issue.
Working together in a group and discussing an issue has value in itself. You have different experience and knowledge. Together you can make a better judgement. It has been shown to strengthen collaboration between different parts of the organisation when people from different departments or units work together.
In both Step 2 and Step 3, someone with knowledge of what is written in the media and on social media can help assess attitudes among citizens - or civil society groups.
Step by step
Read each statement and then make a judgement based on your experience of:
- Similar situations in the past
- Similar cases in other, neighbouring municipalities
- The groups and individuals involved or affected
- Council members’ experience of previous hatred or threats
Make a choice of risk level that you think fits each statement. If you disagree or are unsure, choose the higher risk level rather than the lower one.
Reason with each other in an attempt to see different perspectives and to capitalise on each other's experiences. This is not a question of who is right, but rather a question of making a choice based on all existing knowledge.
What to consider when answering
Here are comments for each statement.
1. The issue and society's reaction
1.1 There are indications that the issue or decision is attracting the involvement of groups or individuals known for hatred, threats, harassment, or violence in order to influence or disrupt the decision-making process.
Comment: Some individuals or groups express criticism of an issue or decision on social media. Isolated incidents of criticism or factual arguments are unlikely to indicate a high risk of hate and threats. However, repeated expressions of strong criticism are an indication that the risk is present. Pay attention to the language used and the tone of the conversation.
1.2 This is a controversial topic - raises strong emotions.
Comment: The focus is on the topic itself - that is, the issue under discussion or the decision to be taken. Whether a topic is controversial depends on the context. Is there strong opposition to a particular proposal or approach to the process? Is it a topic that provokes reaction and strong emotions?
1.3 There is a sensitive history to the issue - previous demonstrations etc.
Comment: If there have previously been demonstrations or other forms of protest on the same or similar issues, the assessment here should be that the risk level is high. This is partly about resistance on the same or related issues, but also partly about how certain groups have behaved in the past. Isolated historical incidents indicating resistance may lead you to select a moderate risk level.
1.4 There are threats or hatred expressed on digital media or reported in the media.
Comment: This may involve hatered and threats occurring on social media platforms or in comments in the media. It may also involve media reports of certain groups expressing themselves in a hateful or threatening manner. You need to make a judgement about what is considered threatening or hateful. It may also depend on how certain comments or statements are perceived by the elected representatives or officials concerned. Something that one person perceives as harmless may be perceived by others as hateful or threatening.
2. Elected representatives and their experience with hate and threats
2.1 Elected representatives who raise the issue are seen by others as "controversial" (due to gender, age, orientation, party affiliation, etc.) or act in a way that provokes a reaction from some.
Comment: There are two different possibilities here. The first is if the person in question is part of a group that others consider to be non-normative. This could be, for example, the person's sexual orientation or origin. This does not have to be related to the issue at hand. The person attracts criticism from certain people or groups. The second is people who behave in a way that provokes some groups or have done so in the past. This does not have to be unpleasant behaviour and may also be because the person in question has previously opposed a certain group, spoken out against what they stand for or do, or otherwise caused the group to regard them as opponents.
2.2 There is previous experience of threats and hatred against individuals or experiences of threats and hatred in general.
Comment: It may be that an individual has been threatened or has been subjected to hatred. It may also be that someone in the same group has been victimised. Even if there are no specific examples, there may be a perception that the atmosphere around an issue is threatening or hateful. Please note that this is the subjective perception of those concerned and is not an objective judgement from your perspective.
3. concerned citizens
3.1 The issue concerns any group or individual with a history of threats and hatred, vigilante behaviour, criticism, protest or sabotage.
Comment: Rights holders tend to make aggressive and repeated demands, make dramatic accusations and perceive reality differently than others. Criticism in this context is not substantive criticism conducted in a fair manner. It is more about criticism directed at the person or group. For example, that they have stupid ideas or that they don't know what they are doing. Protest and sabotage can take different forms. Make a judgement on the degree of seriousness. This mainly refers to behaviour that goes beyond what is normally accepted or tolerated.
3.2 There are indications that citizens expect or demand to be involved but there are no plans to open up for participation.
Step 3: Assessing the level of conflict and the degree of complexity
The results of step 2 have shown that a more thorough assessment is needed and that a risk of hate and intimidation is possible or likely.
Who does the assessment in step 2?
As in step 2, you should gather several people to share their experiences and perspectives. Someone who works on the issue in question and someone who knows how the media reports and how the conversation sounds on social media can be of great value in such a dialogue. Note that if you disagree or doubt about your choice of options, choose the one that indicates a higher risk. It is better to overestimate the risk than to underestimate it.
Step by step
In step 3, each statement is followed by three options. There are 8 statements that relate mainly to the level of conflict and 8 that relate to the nature or complexity of the issue. You have to select options for all statements in order to give the correct result.
How you can reason
Below are some thoughts on how you can reason about each statement.
Part 1: Assessing the level of conflict
9. The tone on social media is critical, hateful or threatening.
Here you should have scanned social media and comments on online newspaper coverage. Look out for a change in the tone and quantity of stories in one direction or another.
The difference between the levels is mainly about the tone of the stories. If the tone is polite and factual, choose blue. If the tone is more critical, choose purple. If the tone is sharply or strongly critical, and if comments are directed at groups or individuals, choose red. If there are hateful or threatening expressions, choose red.
10. communicating with those who are critical
This refers to the attitude of the municipality or region towards groups or individuals who are critical, hateful or threatening. Make an objective judgement based on what you see and know about the attitude of decision-makers.
By communication, we mean mainly direct conversations - in person or by phone and email - rather than communication to the public via the website or printed material.
If the municipality or region regularly contacts people who are critical, select a. If communication consists mainly of formal communication (the tone of letters and emails or information to the public), select b. If there is no habit of contacting critical individuals and groups, or if this seems to be the case in this instance, select c. For
For example, the mayor believes that only a small, vocal group is responsible for the criticism and that engaging in dialogue with them is impossible. In
this case, select c.
Another example: The region has a policy of not talking to those who participate in actions (there has been damage and violence in the past). Select c.
11. Communication with the public
This involves how the municipality or region communicates about the issue or in general. For example, this may involve using information meetings, consultations of various kinds or meetings where dialogue takes place between decision-makers and citizens in some form. If the municipality usually communicates with citizens but in this case does not do so as much, focus on the issue in question.
If there have been (or usually are) meetings where citizens were invited, received information and asked questions, if there has been a consultation process or dialogue, select a. If communication with the public is limited to formal information via the website or mailings, select b. If information has been limited or if decision-makers have not communicated on the issue for a long time, select c.
Make your judgement partly based on the municipality or region's attitude and partly on what citizens perceive. If the perception is that there has been a lack of communication, focus on that perception rather than your or the decision-maker's opinion on adequate communication.
There are different expressions of human resistance and protest. It is easier to protest on social media than to organise a demonstration. Protest can also take the form of a boycott, advertising, redundancies, etc.
The difference between b and c depends mainly on people's commitment and willingness to express their dissatisfaction or resistance. If you see some targeted action to show that a group is not happy with a decision or proposal, choose c. Name lists and petitions are a sign of a targeted and organised protest action. In this case, select c. If the protest is only visible on social media, and has a less organised character, choose b.
13. Hatred online or in other forums
Is there any form of victimisation on the internet, by letter, in conversations or meetings? If it is a repeated incident and not just an isolated incident, select c. Pay attention to trends. Is there an escalation of aggressive and abusive language? Distinguish between criticism and abusive comments. Objective criticism is not offensive - everyone has the right to express their displeasure or opposition. If it is a personal attack or comments that go beyond the point, then it can be abusive or harassing. Spreading false information about someone should be considered offensive and harassing (add).
14. Online or other forms of threat
Threats can be expressed in different ways. There is a fine line between an illegal threat and an insinuation that someone will suffer harm. Here we would recommend that you consider how certain statements are perceived by an elected representative or official who feels threatened. Threats do not have to be explicit either. Someone's presence can be threatening - for example, a group of activists in uniform standing at the back of a meeting room without saying anything is perceived by many as threatening.
The difference between b and c depends very much on how the threat is perceived: indirect threats can be more intimidating than an explicit threat that is not taken seriously. There is a difference between discomfort and concern and fear that determines your choice between the options.
15. Sabotage - physical or any other form that prevents others from carrying out their work.
Sabotage indicates that the conflict has escalated to a serious level. However, there are different forms of sabotage. Malicious damage should be considered serious and in that case your choice would be c. Graffiti, on the other hand, may in some cases be a milder form of protest, depending on where it occurs. Sabotage can also involve making it difficult for others to carry out the work. An example is email bombing and requests for public documents where the intention is to defend the work of someone. If there are signs of coordination and an intention to influence someone or some people, select c. If the sabotage is sporadic and unorganised and of a non-serious nature, select b.
16. Physical or psychological violence
It is not common for physical violence to occur in connection with municipal or regional decisions. Should this be the case, select c. However, psychological violence is more common but no less serious. There are degrees of psychological violence. If the harassment, hatred or threats are judged to be of a serious nature - or if they have a significant impact on the person targeted by the violence - then select c. If it is mostly harassment of a joking (but distasteful) nature, choose b.
This is a difficult judgement and you should decide for yourself which expression of psychological violence you consider serious. Take into account the person against whom an act is directed and how it is received or interpreted. Also take into account the intention behind the act if it is possible to do so.
Part 2. Assessment of the degree of complexity
H. Actors with different perspectives
It can be difficult to make a choice here. It depends partly on the level of opposition to a proposal or decision and partly on the range of perspectives.
You choose option a if everyone seems to agree. There is no major opposition. It also does not involve a large number of stakeholders.
Option b differs from a in the sense that there are several groups or individuals who have different reasons for opposing a decision. It is also common for different groups to jointly oppose a proposal or decision but (usually) contradict each other.
Option c is perceived as messier and more unclear. There are several individuals and groups who have their own arguments and criticise each other. It is difficult to understand what is what. The difference between b and c is partly about the number of people involved and partly about your clarity about the opposition.
I. Similar questions in the past
Here you focus on the municipality or region's experience with similar issues in the past. If the organisation is used to dealing with large issues where there is some tension, choose a. If it is something new to the organisation and there are no people who have dealt with such an issue before, choose c. Choose b if there is some experience - even if the results were not very successful.
For example: local residents protest against a decision to be taken by the municipality and the municipality stops. The attitude is "we will defend ourselves". Past experience would have shown that such behaviour is not very successful. In this case, choose c.
J. The issue is affected by several other issues
Here it would benefit your assessment if you make some kind of map of the problem. What parts does it consist of? Is it influenced by other issues? Does it affect other issues?
Choose b if you are dealing with a technical problem. For example, a decision to close a road to traffic affects congestion at an intersection further away. There is a logical connection.
Choose c if the links are more diffuse. For example, urban and rural conflicts affect a decision to close a school. There is a larger underlying issue. In addition, many people feel that the closure of the school threatens the character and survival of the village.
K. Predictability of the issue
Complex issues are often unpredictable. It is unclear what the outcome will be. Things happen suddenly and change the problem picture. If your problem feels unpredictable and messy, choose option c.
Option b is chosen if the problem is usually handled by experts. There is trust in these experts to solve the problem. Building a bridge or planning a traffic timetable are examples of such problems. However, choose c if you see that the resistance is based on non-technical issues that experts comment on.
Choose a if the problem is such that it is easy to solve in a routine way.
L. A history of tension, resistance or conflict
Many issues have been around for years. Several attempts to address or resolve it have not yielded very positive results. In some cases, these attempts have worsened the situation and even damaged trust in the authorities. If there is a history behind the problem that is characterised by tension and the problem is unresolved, choose c.
If the problem has a history, but it was successfully managed in the past, choose b.
Do not be too narrow in your view of the problem. It may be that other linked problems have existed in the past and are unresolved. Take a broad view of the context of the problem and the links to other related problems.
M. Confidence in the municipality/region
Here you will assess citizens' confidence in the municipality or region's elected officials and civil servants. It mainly concerns the group that you think is protesting against a decision or proposal. Do you see signs that they do not trust what the elected representatives say? Do you see them acting on their own or threatening to do so? This could be, for example, people not attending meetings on the issue or speaking out in the press or on social media.
Select c if trust is low and if you see signs that a group or groups are making statements or showing by actions that they do not trust the municipality or region.
Select b if you have seen an improvement or if only isolated voices express low trust.
Select a if you think trust in the municipality or region is high.
Note that some issues are not decided by other actors that citizens do not trust. For example, when it comes to decisions in parliament or made by the government. Here you should focus on the relationship between citizens and the municipality or region in question.
N. Social and traditional media activity
The focus here is on the flow in the media and on social media platforms related to your issue. A high flow affects the issue's complexity even if it is not particularly negative. People usually engage if they feel that an issue affects them or will affect them negatively.
The difference between b and c is mainly about the tone of media reports. There is usually a link between what is reported and social media activity. Choose b if you notice that the reports do not provoke reactions and do not lead to a high social media flow.
Pay particular attention to the spread of fake news and rumours. If this is the case, select c.