Dispute on sovereignty in cyberspace: content, limits, and prospects for the development of positivistic discourse

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Authors: Alaa Assaf, Daniil Moshnikov, Vera Rusinova

DOI: 10.21128/2226-2059-2020-3-55-66

Keywords: cyberspace; positivism; sovereign equality of states; territorial sovereignty; territory


Articulation by the USA and the United Kingdom of their position that sovereignty is not more than a general principle, which in the absence of an international custom concerning the protection of sovereignty in cyberspace cannot give rise to the international responsibility, resulted in a new spiral in the discussion on how the International law concept of sovereignty can or should be applied in cyberspace. This discussion, being known as a dispute on sovereignty as a rule or as a principle is connected with the application of a strictly positivistic discourse that is based on the lex lata provisions of International law. This article invites to break free from these frames turning to the legal-philosophical theories conceiving sovereignty on the basis of property, competences, or functions. It is assumed that by making use of the stereoscopic approach to the appreciation of the nature of sovereignty and the use of functional theory in addition to the concept of ‘territorial sovereignty’, it is possible to advance new ways for the formalization of sovereignty in cyberspace. As the application of this theory allows keeping cyberspace in its present stance as a global sphere and not diminishing for states the realization of their functions, such an approach can pave the way for a possible change of the vector of the positivistic discourse on the application of sovereignty in cyberspace.

About the authors: Vera Rusinova – Doctor of Sciences in Law, Head of International Law Department, Faculty of Law, Higher School of Economics, Moscow, Russia; Alaa Assaf – Ph.D. Student, Faculty of Law, Higher School of Economics, Moscow, Russia; Daniil Moshnikov – Assistant, International Law Department, Ph.D. Student, Faculty of law, Higher School of Economics, Moscow, Russia.

Citation: Rusinova V., Assaf A., Moshnikov D. (2020) Spor o suverenitete v kiberpro­stranstve: soderzhanie, predely i perspektivy razvitiya pozitivistskogo diskursa [Dispute on sovereignty in cyberspace: content, limits, and prospects for the development of positivistic discourse]. Mezhdunarodnoe pravosudie, vol.10, no.3, pp.55–66. (In Russian).


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