North Macedonia: Social media - the main source of disinformation during COVID-19 pandemic

Author: Meri Gjorgjijoska 

The citizens of North Macedonia have always been exposed to disinformation shared by the social media, and a particularly vulnerable category are young people, who build their attitudes mostly through social networks.

So, the question now is: why is it as it is?

According to the Macedonian Institutte for Media (MIM) research, the reasons for sharing disinformation and propaganda through the media most often lie in the connection of the media with the political and business centers of power. Social networks are platforms on which young people most often encounter disinformation, and they are followed by online media, television, print media and radio.

As we witness this situation for decades, the same situation got worse within the COVID-19 pandemic. Lots of information everywhere, no solution anywhere.

Everywhere we hear different (mis/dis)information for which we are not sure whether it is reliable or not. We don’t have enough critical thinking skills to recognize and distinguish reliable from false information.

The first rumors we heard and read were "The virus is being produced in a laboratory for use as a biological weapon" or perhaps "The virus is not a reality, everything is politics!". 
All these "theories" affect the psyche of people, which is an upward line, together with another parallel line called "conscious", which will probably never collide.

According to the MIM research ‘What do citizens think about media reporting during the Covid-19 pandemic’, 28.8% of therespondents declared that mostly disinformation and fake news are noticed on social media. Of those who cited social media as a source of misinformation and disinformation, the largest percentage (84.5%) cited Facebook, 7.6% cited YouTube, and 5.8% cited the social network Twitter.

The disinformation ecosystem continues going forward which includes information overload, lack of trust or credibility of public authorities and disinformation amplifiers.
What is important to notice while reading a news on social media, is the source.
Is it a reliable and credible institute, or is it one local portal, which share information in order to be visible, without being credible. 

Sharing false news on social media has no end.

In order for the citizens to be able to recognize the fake news, it is necessary to put the emphasis on their media literacy and work on it.

In addition to looking for a vaccine as a cure for COVID-19, a vaccine is needed that will cure and prevent the sharing of disinformation and manipulation of the people.