ABSTRACT

In the context of cyber operations, it has been argued that the non-intervention principle in international law involves a demanding threshold of violation because of the requirement for the behaviour on the part of the perpetrating state to be coercive in nature. Coercion plays a critical role in defining a prohibited intervention, regulating the line between mere interference, which is not generally considered to constitute a violation of international law, and a prohibited intervention. While several states have recognised the application of the principle of non-intervention to scenarios of electoral interference that directly target election infrastructure to disrupt or alter the result of an election, a more complicated issue is whether indirect operations that seek to influence or manipulate voters’ behaviour may be coercive and thus constitute a prohibited intervention. This chapter argues that coercion is capable of a broader application that requires a “degree of pressure” to deprive the target state of control of its state functions. Sophisticated technological methods such as advanced artificial intelligence techniques in influence operations amplify the scale of effects that are possible to achieve which increases the likelihood such activity could interfere with a democratic state’s inherent right to run free and fair elections. In that sense, the chapter challenges the understanding that mere influence alone is not capable of being coercive and argues that influence operations are capable of constituting a prohibited intervention.