'Virtual' Disenfranchisement: Cyber Election Meddling in the Grey Zones of International Law
39 Pages Posted: 30 May 2018 Last revised: 19 Aug 2018
Date Written: May 18, 2018
This article examines remotely conducted election meddling by cyber means in the context of international law and asks whether such cyber operations qualify as “internationally wrongful acts”. An internationally wrongful act requires both a breach of a legal obligation owed by one State to another under international law and attribution of the act to the former. The article considers three possible breaches related to such meddling – violation of the requirement to respect sovereignty, intervention into internal affairs of another State, and, when the cyber operations are not attributable to the State from which they were launched, breach of the due diligence obligation that requires States to ensure cyber operations with serious adverse consequences are not mounted from their territory. The article then examines the various modalities for attributing a cyber operation to a State under international law. Whether cyber meddling in another State’s election is unlawful, as well as the severity thereof, determines the range of responses available to the victim State. The article concludes that the law applicable to remotely conducted meddling in another State’s election is unsettled, thereby comprising a normative grey zone ripe for exploitation by States and non-State actors.
Keywords: cyber, election, meddling, sovereignty, intervention, interference, international law
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