Selim Ibraimi- In parallel with the campaign for the election of presidential candidates and party calculations for the April parliamentary elections in North Macedonia, a new wave of political disinformation as part of digital disinformation has begun to heat the political and emotional competition among ethnic groups. We have become accustomed to disinformation over the last ten years having a Russian source. Being part of a wider disinformation campaign by Russia and Serbia in states that maintain a pro-Western course, several methods of camouflage are being promoted during the election race, which is surprising.

Actors in this permanent campaign include high officials from political parties, the government, and the opposition. This campaign also encompasses online websites supported anonymously by political parties and powerful individuals. Digital disinformation has been widely used by politicians and parties to spread their campaigns and, of course, to discredit political opponents. As elections approach, not only in North Macedonia but also in the EU and the US, we are witnessing a wave of political information circulating on websites or portals that are primarily internal sources for political parties, aimed at party candidates for president in Western Macedonia and those who will govern the country after May.

Such a trend has been ongoing for the last three weeks, where senior officials from the government and the opposition have been promoting a campaign against democratic standards. Due to political factions and ethno-religious divisions, the flow of misinformation from various digital sources can be destructive for all communities, particularly for Albanian and Macedonian voters. Here, it is crucial to review the flow of digital information, which is believed to be deadly for all democracies, especially the fragile ones in the Balkans. As part of the democratic countries of the Western world that are in the election season, in this case, disinformation is being strengthened by the local actors themselves. Recently, Western diplomats in North Macedonia have expressed that the parties should not focus on personal attacks, lies, and misinformation. However, in such power games, regardless of left and right parties, everyone spreads propaganda and lies and sometimes copies Russian-Serbian methods. It should be clarified for our readers that digital disinformation, which has already taken root in the Balkans, is a form of communication with public opinion that aims to deceive in all forms, spreading false information. Attacks are mainly made using the latest technologies. EU institutions have announced that the Balkans is the area where digital disinformation is gaining speed, hindering democracies, especially during election processes. The EU and countries affected by digital disinformation have promoted several prevention strategies, but in reality, digital disinformation cannot be prevented by either the US or the EU countries. Residents of the Balkan countries and North Macedonia surprisingly have a low percentage of trust in terms of accurate information. They believe more in the narratives of political parties and online portals, which spread information to interested circles for the strengthening of digital disinformation.

Digital disinformation has a major impact not only on the Western world and fragile democracies but also on other countries, despite economic and democratic development. We live in an age where no one can escape misinformation and deception, especially in hot regions where interstate, political, and ethno-religious tensions produce more than misunderstandings. The long-term strategy lies in media literacy and education. Currently, it is difficult to find a solution in the Balkans and North Macedonia. But one thing must be said: all actors can contribute to stabilizing the digital disinformation campaign.

If they are interested in stability and peace, then the power of digital disinformation at election time can be reduced. And this is the only defense strategy against the spread of digital disinformation in the difficult age of liberal democracy. Can all actors interested in peace do more? Of course, they can if they keep the promises that, in fragile democracies, serious commitment and respect for standards are the main drivers to fight the enemies and all forms of disinformation of this century.

The article was written exclusively for Portalb. mk. The publication rights belong only to Portalb. mk and the author, according to the agreement between them.