Swiss Review of International and European Law Logo Schulthess juristische Medien AG
Logo SZIER Zeitschrift

Cyber-enabled International State-Sponsored Disinformation Operations and the Role of International Law

Yannick Zerbe

Although the intentional spread of falsehoods in international relations is nothing new, the invention of the
internet and social media ushered in the era of cyber-enabled international State-sponsored disinformation
operations (CISDOs) which enabled disinformation to become vastly more effective by targeting large audiences at a fraction of the cost. Curiously, despite the transnational harm of disinformation, international law has not been considered by many as a useful instrument to regulate CISDOs. This article aims to complement existing disinformation research by studying CISDOs through the lenses of different branches and general principles of international law. The author finds that CISDOs potentially violate various international norms, notably the principle of non-intervention as well as provisions of international human rights, humanitarian and communications law. This article also presents the different obstacles that complicate the regulation of CISDOs via international law and proposes ways to codify the prohibition of international State-sponsored disinformation through an international treaty.