Just Information Warfare


In this article I propose an ethical analysis of information warfare, the warfare waged in the cyber domain. The goal is twofold: filling the theoretical vacuum surrounding this phenomenon and providing the conceptual grounding for the definition of new ethical regulations for information warfare. I argue that Just War Theory is a necessary but not sufficient instrument for considering the ethical implications of information warfare and that a suitable ethical analysis of this kind of warfare is developed when Just War Theory is merged with Information Ethics. In the initial part of the article, I describe information warfare and its main features and highlight the problems that arise when Just War Theory is endorsed as a means of addressing ethical problems engendered by this kind of warfare. In the final part, I introduce the main aspects of Information Ethics and define three principles for a just information warfare resulting from the integration of Just War Theory and Information Ethics.

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Fig. 1


  1. 1.

    For an analysis of revolution in military affairs considering both the history of such revolutions and the effects of the development of the most recent technologies on warfare see (Benbow 2004) (Blackmore 2011).

  2. 2.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-11693214 http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/6665145.stm.

  3. 3.


  4. 4.

    For an annotated time line of cyber attacks see NATO’s website http://www.nato.int/docu/review/2013/Cyber/timeline/EN/index.htm.

  5. 5.

    This is an autonomous weapon system designed to detect and destroy radar emitters http://www.israeli-weapons.com/weapons/aircraft/uav/harpy/harpy.html.

  6. 6.

    This is a UK drone which can autonomously search, identify and locate enemies although it should be stressed that it can only engage with a target upon the authorization of mission command http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BAE_Systems_Taranis.

  7. 7.

    For a more detailed analysis of LoA see (Floridi 2008).

  8. 8.

    The USA only spent $400 million in developing technologies for cyber conflicts: http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2010/05/cyberwar-cassandras-get-400-million-in-conflict-cash/The UK devoted £650 million to the same purpose:http://www.theinquirer.net/inquirer/news/1896098/british-military-spend-gbp650-million-cyber-warfare.

  9. 9.

    Note that MQ-1 Predators and EADS Barracuda, and the Northrop–Grumman X-47B are Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicles used for combat actions and they are different from Unmanned Air Vehicles, like for example Northrop–Grumman MQ-8 Fire Scout, which are used for patrolling and recognition purposes only.

  10. 10.


  11. 11.

    The need to define concepts such as those of harm, target and violence is stressed both by scholar who argue in favor of the ontological difference of the cyber warfare (Dipert 2013) and exploit this point to claim that JWT is not an adequate framework to address IW and by those who actually maintain that JWT provides sufficient element to address the case of IW (Lucas 2013).

  12. 12.

    See (Withman 2013) for an analysis of validity of JWT with respect to contemporary violent warfare.

  13. 13.

    It is worthwhile noticing that the problem engendered by the application of the principle of last resort to the soft-cases of IW may also be addressed by stressing that these cases do not fall within the scope of JWT as they may be considered cases of espionage rather than cases of war, and as such they do not represent a ‘first strike’ and the principle of last resort should not be applied to them. One consequence of this approach is that JWT would address war scenarios by focusing on traditional cases of warfare, such as physical attacks, and on the deployment of robotic weapons, disregarding the use of cyber attacks. This would be quite a problematic consequence because, despite the academic distinction between IW and traditional warfare, the two phenomena are actually not so distinct in reality. Robotic weapons fight on the battlefield side by side with human soldiers, and military strategies comprise both physical and cyber attacks. By disregarding cyber attacks, JWT would be able to address only partially contemporary warfare, while it should take into consideration the whole range of phenomena related to war waging in order to address the ethical issues posed by it (for a more in depth analysis of this aspect see (Taddeo 2012)).

  14. 14.

    “ICRC Databases on International Humanitarian Law”.

  15. 15.

    On this point see also (Dipert 2010, p. 400).

  16. 16.

    The reader may recall the informational LoA mentioned in Sect. 2. Information Ethics endorses an informational LoA, as such it focuses on the informational nature as a common ground of all existing things.

  17. 17.

    For more details on the information-based ontology see (Floridi 2002). The reader interested in the debate on the Informational ontology and the principles of Information Ethics may whish to see (Floridi 2007).


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Correspondence to Mariarosaria Taddeo.

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Taddeo, M. Just Information Warfare. Topoi 35, 213–224 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11245-014-9245-8

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  • Cyber conflicts
  • Entropy
  • Information Ethics
  • Information war
  • Just War Theory
  • War