International Humanitarian Law and the Internet @ RIPE 71

By on 26 Nov 2015

Category: Tech matters

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In a fascinating and knowledgeable presentation at RIPE 71, three RIPE Academic Cooperation Initiative (RACI) participants from Leiden University talked to us about the application of international humanitarian law to the emerging problems of Cyber Warfare.

The problem is still extremely difficult, because the application of the classical rules of war to the Internet hit the problem of the ephemeral nature of the online world. Most of the rules relate to the protection of civilian utilities, assets, and ‘real’ property; and the nature of law over claims for restitution of its loss. How do you apply this to the online world?

There are undeniable risks of damage to civil society; for example, deaths from the failure of an online system for ambulance scheduling, or loss of data services to a hospital for diagnostic services. But, the law is weak in managing these risks, compared to real-world destruction and death.

Lucy Turner and her colleagues referred to the Tallinn Manual during their presentation as our best path out, but noted this is non-binding.

The emergence of binding rules governing the protection of the public utility of the Internet is some way off, and I suspect will not survive the needs to deal with apparent use of the Internet as a tool of propaganda by terrorist organizations, for example. State actors will not be able to resist the closure of these information channels, regardless of the other consequences.

Watch Lucy Turner and her colleagues give their presentation and read their slide pack at the RIPE 71 meeting website.

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