International Law in Cyberspace

Author: Jane Doe

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A. IntroductionEdit

This chapter aims at giving a systematic overview of the relevance and applicability of international law to cyberspace and cyber activities. The legal aspects of regulating cyberspace raise a broad variety of issues falling under the general part of international law and different areas of international law. The discussion explains the applicability of existing international law to cyberspace, while discerning possible shortcomings thereof for addressing certain legal questions. The analysis also explores emergent principles guiding the behaviour of States and the development of multilateral standard-setting treaties, standards and norms. This is an area of increased interest to State and non-State actors bringing to the fore highly politicised views in international practice on whether and, if yes, how cyber activities are to be regulated.

The variety and growing complexity of activities performed in cyberspace, whether characterised as cyber operations, cyber activities, cyber crimes or cyber attacks, determines the need to verify the degree in which international law applies in this medium and whether a new regulatory framework is necessary. Further, several actors are involved in cyberspace, each with her own juridical features. States, individuals, international organisations or corporations and the interactions between international legal, and political, implications.

The multiplication of risks generated by the threats posed within the cyberspace has prompted the international society to act. Several international organizations, heads of state, private entities or non-governmental organizations, confirm that we face a contemporary proliferation of illegal acts performed in cyberspace.On the date of 29 June 2021, the United Nations High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, participating at the first open debate on maintaining peace and security in cyberspace before the Security Council, concluded that “ICT threats are increasing, but efforts are also under way to address them”. Further, on the 23rd of June 2021, the European Commission concluded that there is a “rising number of serious cyber incidents impacting public services, as well as the life of businesses and citizens across the European Union.”

In this context, various discussions are currently held on the applicability of international law in cyberspace, within the United Nations Group of Governmental Experts on Advancing Responsible State Behavior in Cyberspace in the Context of International Security, or within the Open-ended Working Group on Developments in the field of information and telecommunications in the context of international security.

This Chapter will reveal the main legal implications regarding the application of international law in cyberspace and will share the current state of affairs.

B. International law-making and actorsEdit

C. Digital sovereignty and the emerging norm to protect the public core of the InternetEdit

D. JurisdictionEdit

E. The principle of non-intervention and the prohibition of the threat or use of forceEdit

F. State responsibilityEdit

G. Cyber-espionageEdit

H. International humanitarian lawEdit

I. Human rights lawEdit

J. Human rights lawEdit

K. The international regulation of the basic infrastructure of cyberspace (e.g. domain names, Internet standards)Edit

Further ReadingsEdit

  • Source I
  • Source II


  • Summary I
  • Summary II

Table of ContentsEdit

Back to home page

Part I - History, Theory, and Methods

Part II - General International Law

Part III - Specialized Fields


  1. The first footnote. Please adhere to OSCOLA when formating citations. Whenever possible, provide a link with the citation, ideally to an open-access source.