Skip to main content
Journal Article

Information operations and the question of illegitimate interference under international law

Israel Law Review 53 (2): 189–224
2020 Best Paper Award
Henning Christian Lahmann (2020)
Information technology and systems
Information operations, cyber operations, cognitive warfare, disinformation, election interference, principle of non-intervention, sovereignty, self-determination
The article examines the legal qualification of state-led information operations that aim to undermine democratic decision-making processes in other states. After a survey of the legal attitudes of states towards such operations during the Cold War, the impact of the digital transformation on the frequency and quality of information operations is explained. The article then assesses scholarly responses to the outlined paradigm shift regarding the prohibition of intervention, respect for sovereignty and the principle of self-determination. The study then inquires whether it is possible to detect a change in how states qualify adversarial information operations by tracking recent state practice and official statements of opinio juris. The survey concludes that there is insufficient uniformity to allow for an inference that the content of the analysed rules of customary international law has already shifted towards more restrictive treatment of foreign interference. As a possible way forward, the article ends with a proposal to focus on deceptive and manipulative conduct of information operations as the most viable path to outlaw such state behavior in the future. Instead of attempting to regulate the content of information, this approach is better suited to safeguard freedom of speech and other potentially affected civil rights.
© Cambridge University Press and The Faculty of Law, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem 2020
Journal Pages
ISSN (Online)
ISSN (Print)