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Prospects for the Rule of Law in Cyberspace

Authored by Mr. Keir Giles.

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The application of international law and legal principles in cyberspace is a topic that has caused confusion, doubt, and interminable discussions between lawyers since the earliest days of the internationalization of the Internet. The still unresolved debate over whether cyberspace constitutes a fundamentally new domain that requires fundamentally new laws to govern it reveals basic ideological divides. On the one hand, the Euro-Atlantic community led by the United States believes, in broad terms, that activities in cyberspace require no new legislation, and existing legal obligations are sufficient. On the other, a large number of other states led by Russia and China believe that new international legal instruments are essential in order to govern information security overall, including those expressed through the evolving domain of cyberspace. Russia in particular argues that the challenges presented by cyberspace are too urgent to wait for customary law to develop as it has done in other domains; instead, urgent action is needed.

This Letort Paper will provide an overview of moves toward establishing norms and the rule of law in cyberspace, and the potential for establishing further international norms of behavior.

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