Internet Myth 2: International Law Does Not Apply on The Internet

As discussed by Matthias C. Kettemann

In case you missed the first edition, you can read it here.


Since there is no international treaty, regarding the internet, along the lines of the Paris Agreement, on climate change, international law does not apply, to international subjects and their relations on and meditated by, the internet. States can do what they want online.


True enough, there is no one international treaty regulating cyberspace.

But, international law applies to the internet, fully and protects the security and functionality of the platform, as a matter of common interest.

According to the 2013 report of the UN Group of Government experts, applying norms, derived from existing international laws, relevant to the use of ICTs, is an essential measure, to reduce risks, to international peace, security and stability.

In another 2015 report by the Group, it identified key principles, which include: sovereign equality, prohibition of threat, or, use of force, respect for human right and fundamental freedoms and non-intervention, in the internal affairs of other States.

There is, also, a normative argument to be made, for applying international law to the internet.

International law is, the only body of the laws that can serve, as the legitimate foundation, of an internationally applicable order, of norms, through which the exercise of international public authority, can be legitimated and the distribution of goods and rights contested and discussed.

Safeguarding the internet’s integrity has become an essential goal, for international law.

International law of the internet, also, provides the frame, in which internet governance approaches take place, “the practice” of regulating the internet.


While there is no international treaty, dedicated to the internet, international law, fully applies.

Customary rules and general principles, of international law define the power and limits, of international actors and, as it is common, with international law, almost all States, respect, almost, all rules.

When more policy-oriented questions need to be solved, internet governance approaches, complement international law.

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