Accountability in Cyberspace: The Holy Grail of Cyber Stability?

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The pursual of accountability in cyberspace is a story of the Holy Grail eagerly searched for by the international cyber-policy community.

Accountability – narrowly understood by the cyber elites as the capacity to impose consequences on actors for their malicious and/or illegal behaviour in cyberspace – is seen as a potentially strong deterrent. But the limited effects of the current practices – such as joint attribution statements or targeted sanctions – have raised questions about whether anyone at all is held accountable and to what effect.

This paper aims to address some of the weaknesses in the debates about accountability in cyberspace with the primary aim of proposing a system approach to accountability and a potential solution to the accountability deficit in cyberspace. The paper focuses on the following questions:

  • Who are accountable to whom in cyberspace, and for what? 
  • How do standards, information, monitoring and participation, and sanctions impact accountability in cyberspace? 
  • What processes exist in other cyber-related regimes that could strengthen cyber accountability?

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