Research Centre of European Private Law


Senior Researchers' Projects

Description of the Research Project:
Towards a Digital Geneva Convention

Person in charge for the project:
Avv. Alessandra Sardu, Ph.d., LL.M., RECEPL Senior Researcher

Starting date: January 2020
Deadline: in progress


Multinationals technology companies play a predominant role in influencing and determining the dynamics of cyberspace, especially because of their know-how, which is sometimes superior to that of States. Cases in which States use these companies to achieve their foreign policy objectives are increasingly frequent. At this regard, two issues shall be analyzed: the relations between States and technological multinationals and the protection of digital citizens.

Microsoft has tried to address both the aspects, developing two concrete proposals on the topic of the identification of the applicable law in cyberspace. These proposals consist in the development of the "International Cybersecurity Norms" and in the appeal for the adoption of the "Digital Geneva Convention". The basis of both the initiatives seems to be the conception that existing international law is not adequate to regulate the complexity of cyberspace.

The "International Cybersecurity Norms" are contained in a policy paper and consist of six rules published in 2015, with the primary objective of reducing the possibility that ICTs are used by States in offensive operations. They aim both to define the limits within which cybernetic weapons can be developed and used, and to preserve the survival and advantages of a globally connected society.

The appeal for the adoption of the "Digital Geneva Convention" was launched in 2017 by Microsoft President Brad Smith. The name of the treaty is a reference to the 1949 Geneva Convention on the protection of civilians in times of war.

The proposal contains ten key clauses, which in turn should represent the core of the Digital Geneva Convention.

In this project the Microsoft's proposal to create the Digital Geneva Convention will be critically analyzed, also in order to verify whether the key clauses contained therein are compatible with the position expressed by the international community within the UN General Assembly. It has to be ascertained whether this non-governmental initiative could effectively be an impulse to start a codification of international law in cyberspace.

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