James Rubin: "RT" and "Sputnik" in Serbia are used for Russian interference in North Macedonia

James Rubin in Podgorica/Photo: Twitter/Screenshot

The correspondent of "The Voice of America" from the State Department, Nike Ching, spoke with the special representative and coordinator of the State Department's Center for Global Engagement James Rubin on several topics, including the signed Memorandum of Understanding between the United States and North Macedonia, how the United States deals with Russian disinformation, as well as the use of artificial intelligence in relation to disinformation.

Voice of America: The US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken told Sen. Chris Murphy during a May 16 Senate hearing that the Center for Global Engagement is working with the State Department's China division to counter disinformation from China. Secretary Blinken also said the United States is now making the Associated Press, Reuters and other objective sources of information available to other countries. Can you give more details about that? What are those countries?

Rubin: Information manipulation is a big problem for the US. It's a problem all over the world. We found that in some cases, China offers free services to certain news outlets, but in return requires that other news sources not be used. We are trying to counter this.

The important thing is that the news can be downloaded, it is transparent, so that the marketplace of ideas can make its own decisions. The problem is when Chinese support is not transparent, but takes place behind the scenes, with hidden intentions. And what we at the Center for Global Engagement do is try to provide evidence to countries around the world when the integrity of their information space is breached.

Voice of America: The United States signed a memorandum of understanding with North Macedonia on cooperation in the fight against disinformation. What do you hope to achieve? Does the US enforce similar agreements with other countries?

Rubin: We discovered that the existence of "Russia Today" and "Sputnik" in Serbia, it is used to interfere in North Macedonia. We agreed with the Government of North Macedonia to conclude a Memorandum of Understanding. These memoranda establish the will of another country to treat the problem with the same urgency as we treat it. It is not a solution, but a demonstration of will. Now it's up to us to work with the Government of North Macedonia to help them monitor the integrity of their information space, to try to show when Russia's hidden hand is interfering with their information space, to give them the tools to analyze the poisoning of their information space. It's actually sharing free media best practices, fact-checking, building resilience.

"Our partners in North Macedonia and other parts of the Balkans – Bulgaria, Slovakia – have told us that they recognize this as a big problem that they're facing, and we want to work with them to ensure that when Russia or China or any other country interferes in the information space, that it is obvious, that it can be attributed to the source, so that the influence of these or other states can be clearly seen. It is not wrong for countries to present their point of view, but it should no longer be hidden. It should be transparent," adds the American representative.

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