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Digital Technology and International Law


Admission requirements

Required course(s):

Principles of Public International Law or permission from the instructor

Recommended course(s):

International and Regional Human Rights


Emerging as a new domain of human interaction in the second half of the twentieth century, digital technology has become increasingly woven into the fabric of societies around the world. In this course, we will examine how international law addresses the governance challenges of the digital age. Examining a diversity of topics, including state responsibility for different types of hostile cyber operations, online platform governance, artificial intelligence governance, and autonomous weapons systems, this course invites students to critically reflect on global governance challenges at the intersection of digital technology and international law.

Course Objectives


  • Understand the challenges and uncertainties that arise concerning the application of the international legal framework on state responsibility to different types of cyber operations

  • Critically reflect on the challenges of online platform governance, including content moderation, online political microtargeting, and data surveillance

  • Develop an insight into emerging governance challenges associated with new technologies, including artificial intelligence and autonomous weapons systems


  • Critically examine, orally present, and nurture discussions on tensions and challenges related to digital technology and international law

  • Creatively and collectively develop a short course on a thematic area related to digital technology and international law

  • Apply legal research and writing skills to a topical issue or case at the intersection of digital technology and international law


Timetables for courses offered at Leiden University College in 2021-2022 will be published on this page of the e-Prospectus.

Mode of instruction

This course uses a variety of teaching methods, including interactive lectures, student-led class debates, research assignments, and student presentations. Before each class students are required to have read the compulsory readings and considered any accompanying discussion questions in preparation for the session. Active participation in class is expected. In-class debates will be based on analysis of thematic issues and concrete cases at the intersection of digital technology and international law.

Assessment Method

  • Class Participation – 12%

  • Critical Debate Leadership – 18%

  • Innovate Digital Technology & International Law Education – 30% (18% for syllabus; 12% for presentation)

  • Research Paper – 40%

Please note:

  • In accordance with article 4.8 of the Course and Examination Regulations (OER), within 30 days after the publication of grades, the instructor will provide students the opportunity to inspect their exams/coursework.

  • There is a no re-sit policy at Leiden University College.

Reading list

The list of course materials will be made available prior to the start of the course.

For background reading, the following texts are recommended:

  • Tsagourias, N, and Buchan, R (eds), Research Handbook on International Law and Cyberspace (Edward Elgar 2015)

  • Schmitt, M.N. and Vihul, L. (eds), Tallinn Manual 2.0 on the International Law Applicable to Cyber Operations (CUP 2017)

  • Belli, L, and Zingales, N (eds), Platform Regulations: How Platforms are Regulated and How they Regulate Us (FGV Direito Rio 2017)

  • Tufekci, Z., Twitter and Tear Gas: The Power and Fragility of Networked Protest (Yale University Press 2017)

  • Land, MK, and Aronson, JD (eds), New Technologies for Human Rights Law and Practice (CUP 2018)

  • Buchan, R, Cyber Espionage and International Law (Hart 2018)

  • Gillespie, T, Custodians of the Internet (YUP 2018)

  • Waldman, AE, Privacy as Trust: Information Privacy for an Information Age (CUP 2018)

  • Eubanks, V, Automating Inequality: How High-Tech Tools Profile, Police, and Punish the Poor (St. Martin’s Press, 2018)

  • Noble, SU, Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines Reinforce Racism (NYU Press 2018)

  • Jørgensen, RF (ed), Human Rights in the Age of Platforms (MIT Press 2019)

  • Cohen, JE, Between Truth and Power: The Legal Constructions of Informational Capitalism (OUP 2019)

  • Roberts, ST, Behind the Screen: Content Moderation in the Shadows of Social Media (YUP 2019)

  • Kaye, D., Speech Police: The Global Struggle to Govern the Internet (Columbia Global Reports 2019)

  • Walter, M et al, Indigenous Data Sovereignty and Policy (Routledge 2020)

  • Delarue, F, Cyber Operations and International Law (CUP 2020)

  • Lahmann, H, Unilateral Remedies to Cyber Operations (CUP 2020)

  • Joyce, D, Informed Publics, Media and International Law (Hart 2020)

  • Ohlin, JD, Election Interference: International Law and the Future of Democracy (CUP 2020)

  • Kettemann, MC, The Normative Order of the Internet (OUP 2020)

  • Deibert, R., Reset: Reclaiming the Internet for Civil Society (House of Anansi Press 2020)

  • Dubberley, S, Koenig, A, and Murray, D (eds), Digital Witness: Using Open Source Information for Human Rights Investigation, Documentation, and Accountability (OUP 2020)

  • Joyce, D, Informed Publics, Media and International Law (Hart 2020)

  • Watt, E, State Sponsored Cyber Surveillance: The Right to Privacy of Communications and International Law (Edward Elgar 2021)

  • Ohlin, JD, and Hollis, DB (eds), Defending Democracies: Combating Foreign Election Interference in a Digital Age (OUP 2021)

  • York, J., Silicon Values: The Future of Free Speech Under Surveillance Capitalism (Verso 2021)

  • Crawford, K, Atlas of AI (YUP 2021)


Courses offered at Leiden University College (LUC) are usually only open to LUC students and LUC exchange students. Leiden University students who participate in one of the university’s Honours tracks or programmes may register for one LUC course, if availability permits. Registration is coordinated by the Education Coordinator,


Dr. Barrie Sander