BRUSSELS (AP) — Russia and China are waging a “digital war” with fake news and disinformation to undermine democracy in Europe, and the European Union must develop tools to fight back, a top EU official said Thursday.
European Commission Vice President Vera Jourova, who leads efforts to preserve democratic principles across the bloc, said the two countries have “weaponized information” and won’t back down until Europe stands up to them.
“There are specific external actors, namely Russia and increasingly China, that are actively using disinformation and related interference tactics to undermine European democracy,” Jourova told a conference of disinformation experts and policymakers in Brussels.
The two countries “will feel comfortable doing so until we demonstrate that we will not tolerate this aggression and interference,” she said.
She said that “digital war” is a favored method of Russia and China because “they see that it’s efficient, it’s cheap, and I am not naive enough to believe that some talk will discourage them from doing that.”
Jourova cited as examples the fake news reports from Russia surrounding the shooting down of a Malaysian airlines flight over eastern Ukraine in 2014 and in the poisoning of a former Russian spy and his daughter in Salisbury, England in 2018.
Europe must find the best way to “defend ourselves and our territory and use the most efficient tools to do that,” including funding and new policies, she said.
Experts at Thursday’s conference said Russia’s aim is to sow confusion and to undermine western organizations like the EU and NATO, while China uses more subtle methods, combined with a lot of money, to persuade decision-makers and influence policy.