Social network analysis has a growing influence on legal scholarship. By investigating social connections between individuals or institutions, hypotheses about their behaviour can be raised and tested. One of the key debates in social network analysis is whether interactions within the network can help improve the information held by its members (the ‘Bandwidth Hypothesis’) or do they instead corrupt the information held by the members by amplifying their biases (the ‘Echo Hypothesis’). The chapter argues that the network of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), which try to enforce the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) on recalcitrant states, processes information well and complies with the Bandwidth Hypothesis. It draws on an earlier empirical study that used both quantitative and qualitative methods to show that NGOs focus most of their attention on severe violations and legally important cases. This study also showed that NGOs tend to focus on states that usually comply with international law rather than states that usually violate their international obligations. This finding has valuable implications for the understanding of reputational sanctions among states in the international arena.
The European Court of Human Rights applies a series of interpretive techniques that systematically expand states' human rights obligations far beyond the obligations states took upon themselves by ratifying the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. Some commentators argue that this practice is illegitimate because states represent their citizens and their decision not to undertake certain human rights obligations should be respected. This paper argues that expansive interpretation is nonetheless legitimate in two important situations which often occur in the international arena. First, in situations where most states would have subscribed to the additional obligation but for a minority of states that use their veto power to prevent an amendment of the Convention, expansive interpretation will bring the states' actions into better alignment with their own desires and the desires of their citizens. Second, in situations where democratic failures lead states to misrepresent the interests of individuals affected by their human rights policies, expansive interpretation can help align the policies of states with the true interests of the citizens they represent. Although the paper does not provide a general justification for expansive interpretation, it does suggest that in certain limited contexts where the conditions identified above hold, it might well serve the goals of international law and international courts.