Commercial Normativity in Cyberspace?

Workshop and Publication

Project leader: Prof. Nicole Deitelhoff

Project description

The state-led, UN-based process for finding norms for responsible behavior in cyberspace is currently deemed to have collapsed, following the failure of the UN’s Group of Governmental Experts (UN GGE) to produce an outcome document at their June 2017 meeting.
The primary bone of contention is whether International Law such as the right to self-defense (Art. 51 UNC) is applicable to cyberattacks. Another fundamental tension lies between the Chinese and Russian principle of “cyber sovereignty” – i.e. full state control over the Internet within state borders – and the US-led and Western approach of multistakeholder governance – meaning the current less centralized system of internet regulation through corporate interests, civil society, research institutes, and government institutions.
In the face of this impasse at the state level, IT firms have emerged as vocal and proactive norm entrepreneurs. Private actors have a claim – and perhaps even an obligation – to set cyber policy and norms due to (1) the ongoing unregulated nature of the internet and (2) their superior technical expertise. Remarkably, Microsoft has called for a “Digital Geneva Convention” to protect civilians from cyberattacks, united 70+ IT firms under the “Cybersecurity Tech Accord,” and has most recently partnered with France to launch the “Paris Call for Trust and Security in Cyberspace” for states, civil society, and firms. Siemens has started similar initiatives.
This research project aims to explore this move towards corporate norm entrepreneurship in cyberspace, and to broaden it as a nascent academic field. The International Relations (IR) literatures on (1) corporate norm entrepreneurship and (2) areas of limited statehood can inform this analysis and help systematize the field, as can scholarship from International (humanitarian) law and cyber studies. With this focus on cyberspace and the changing condition for the generation of normative orders, the envisaged project contributes directly to research field II on medial and digital transformations of normative orders and the cross-cutting theme on Law.
From the original “Digital Geneva Convention” proposal to its important role in crafting the “Paris Call” alongside France, Microsoft has not only pursued a seat at the table, but the seat at the head of the table. In this, the company certainly has been successful – Microsoft, Facebook and Google portray themselves on equal footing with states and international institutions. However, corporate press releases indicate that the provisions of Microsoft’s initiatives seem to be neither shared nor understood among their addressees – casting some initial doubt on the project’s prospects for success.

Workshop
Further information will follow


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