Harmful effect assessment of a State’s cyber operation to make a case per International Law

with Fan Yang

The Stockholm Centre for International Law and Justice invites you to a seminar with
Fan Yang
Harmful effect assessment of a State’s cyber operation to make a case per International Law

Fan Yang

To scrutinize a state’s cyber operation under international law requires a legal assessment of the harmful effect of the conduct in question. Existing discussions and states’ position papers usually make blunt and arbitrary assertions as to which threshold of effects should be met before a cyber operation could be argued as inconsistent with certain obligations. Few would bother to reflect on the evaluation process of the harmful effect. This leaves ambiguity in applying international law in cyberspace, and poses a challenge for international law-making. This talk tries to introduce a three-step generic model to assess the consequence of an accused state’s cyber operation. Step one: delineation. Only consequences that result from and ascribe to the accused operation could count as within the meaning of harmful effect, which could be assessed per different standards recognized in lex lata. Step two: categorization. The dichotomy of physical and non-physical effects is used in the discussion on cyberspace, in which the non-physical effects, containing economic, political, and social aspects, especially deserves a more thorough examination. Step three: synthesization. The Synthesized Harm of a single cyber operation, the Aggregated Harm of a series of inter-related cyber operations, and the Composite Harm caused by cyber operation in synergy with a different type of operation such as kinetic operation, can then be assessed depending on the specific scenario. With this model, state positions and typical cases can be revisited.

With a combined educational background of Communication Engineering (Bachelor) and Law (Juris Master, LL.M., and Ph. D in Law), Dr. Fan YANG is an assistant professor of international law at Xiamen University, China, and currently visiting The Hague Program of International Cyber Security at Leiden University. Fan is mainly interested in interdisciplinary research of cyber-related international law and data governance. Fan leads the XMU Cyberspace International Law Center and offers consultancy to Chinese governmental branches, in related to negotiations and consultations at different international fora, including the UN Ad Hoc Committee on countering cybercrime and the UN OEWG process. He is also actively involved in a series of Track 1.5 and Track 2 dialogues on international governance in cyberspace, including especially serving as the liaison and expert for Sino-EU Expert Working Group on the Application of International Law in Cyberspace. Since 2022, Dr. Yang has co-led a team of practitioners in providing legal service on data compliance per Chinese laws and regulations.

The workshop has a hybrid format, either in person or on Zoom:

No registration needed.