Siena Anstis, Senior legal advisor at The Citizen Lab in a recent publication in the prestigious peer review journal International and Comparative Law highlights the urgent need for an international treaty to tackle digital transnational repression. The ICLQ is the journal of British International and Comparative Law, and is published by Cambridge University Press. 

In this article, Siena argues that the absence of an international law to prevent transnational repression permits states or entities connected to states to use digital technologies to suppress or silence dissent from activists, human rights defenders, and dissidents abroad by gathering personal data that is subsequently used as a weapon against the target or their networks. To protect and provide safe spaces to targeted communities, there is a need for states to work together to define dissident cyber espionage, as well as to develop a set of policies that will discourage it and make it easier for victims to seek justice. 

The paper goes into further detail about the wide range of ways in which states employ a variety of instruments, from sophisticated ones like mercenary spyware to more accessible ones like spear-phishing techniques, to stifle and threaten dissent. A number of important components of a possible international treaty that would address transnational dissident cyber espionage are included in the article’s conclusion. This provides an overview of the available measures to develop an international treaty that will not only build consensus among states to acknowledge the issue of transnational dissident cyber espionage, but will also facilitate international cooperation that places human rights at the center of every conversation, including partnerships with private companies that will recognize threat and provide proactive protection to targeted communities. 

You can read the full article here.