Episode 29 – David Sloss on Defending Democracies Against Information Warfare

In this episode I speak with David Sloss, a professor of law at Santa Clara University School of Law, about his new book Tyrants on Twitter: Protecting Democracies from Chinese and Russian Information Warfare. David argues that autocracies such as China and Russia are exploiting social media to engage in “warfare by other means” to undermine democracies around the world, and that there are strategic and geopolitical implications to allowing autocracies to conduct this kind of information warfare. We discuss how this form of information warfare calls for different law and policy responses than cyber operations, or other forms of interference in the electoral processes or domestic politics of nations, and why in his view the best response is a coordinated transnational regulatory system agreed to by like-minded democracies, which would include the banning of Russian and Chinese state agents from social media platforms. We explore several of the likely objections to his proposal, including its implicit rejection of broader and more universal international law solutions, whether it distracts from several larger threats to democracy posed by social media platforms, the risk of securitizing an essentially non-military problem, and some of the more technical challenges to its implementation. We only scratch the surface of everything the book has to offer, but it provides a lot of food for thought!


Tyrants on Twitter: Protecting Democracies from Chinese and Russian Information Warfare (2022).

Reading Recommendations:

– Yochai Benkler et al., Network Propaganda: Manipulation, Disinformation, and Radicalization in American Politics (2018);

– Laura Rosenberger, “Making Cyberspace Safe for Democracies,” Foreign Affairs, May/June, 2020.

– Aleksi Knuutila et al., “Global Fears of Disinformation: Perceived Internet and Social Media Harms in 142 Countries,” Oxford Internet Institute (2020).

The Varieties of Democracy Institute (V-Dem).

Season 2: Episode 15 – Michael Schmitt on Cyber Ops and the Laws of War

In this episode, the first of “Season 2”, I speak with Michael Schmitt, who is, among other things, Professor of International Law at the University of Reading, Francis Lieber Distinguished Scholar at the United States Military Academy at West Point, and Charles H. Stockton Distinguished Scholar at the US Naval War College.  He is also the Director of the International Group of Experts responsible for the Tallinn Manual 2.0 On the International Law Applicable to Cyber Operations. We discuss the development of the Tallinn Manual, the reasons for a 3.0 that is currently underway, and the implications and significance of recent state declarations and statements on their understanding of how the jus ad bellum and IHL regimes apply to cyber operations. We also grapple with some of the difficult issues that arise in trying to apply these legal regimes to cyber ops, and, more importantly, how efforts to do so may threaten the integrity of the legal regimes themselves. Both a wonderful introduction for the uninitiated to how the laws of war apply to cyber ops, and a fascinating discussion of some of the more knotty questions for the experts.


Tallinn Manual 2.0 On the International Law Applicable to Cyber Operations (2017).

“Israel’s Cautious Perspective on International Law in Cyberspace: Part II (jus ad bellum and jus in bello),” EJILTalk!, Dec. 17, 2020.

“France Speaks Out on IHL and Cyber Operations: (Parts I & II),” EJILTalk!, Oct. 1, 2019.

Reading Recommendations:

– Israel Ministry of Justice, “Israel’s Perspective on Key Legal and Practical Issues Concerning the Application of International Law on Cyber Operations,” 97 International Law Studies (2021).

– Ministère des Armées, Republique Français, International Law Applied to Operations in Cyberspace, Oct. 2019.

– Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of the Netherlands, Letter to the Parliament on the International Legal Order in Cyberspace (with Annexes), Jul. 5 , 2019.