Just Cyberpeace in an Age of Autonomy

I’m not exactly the most technologically savvy person, but my involvement in the world of disarmament and arms control is making me increasingly aware of the need for peace and social justice activists to take cyberspace seriously. On Saturday, I watched CITIZENFOUR and was shocked at my own ignorance of the implications of the Edward Snowden revelations.

Of particular concern for those who have campaigned against victim-initiated weapons (like landmines and killer robots), is Snowden’s claim that the US National Security Agency (NSA) is developing a program called MonsterMind that would detect a foreign cyber-attack and retaliate autonomously — a kind of Cyber-Mine.

During the UN General Assembly First Committee last month, many states raised concerns that while international human rights and humanitarian law applies in cyberspace, there needs to be greatly clarity about how. The International Committee of the Red Cross warned states that “the interconnectedness of military and civilian networks poses a significant practical challenge in terms of protecting civilians from the dangers of cyber warfare.”

Similarly, in a statement I had some peripheral involvement in drafting, several civil society organizations called on states to “work towards adopting an effective international legal framework that will prevent and protect the networked infrastructure upon which societies rely for their wellbeing.”

But the challenges of building a just cyberpeace in a time of growing militarization and mass surveillance are considerable (see this great introduction by a professor at Notre Dame). At the moment, outside the tech sector, activism on cyberspace is seen as the preserve of wonky nerds. But as more and more people have more and more of their lives integrated into digital networks, soon most discussions of limiting armed violence will have some cyber dimension.

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~ by Matthew Bolton on 10 November 2014.

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