One of the frequently used means of spreading nationalist rhetoric is the claim that there has always been some conspiracy against Macedonia. The name dispute with Greece and its subsequent resolution did not help in this matter and the key historic events, such as the referendum on the name change, and the adoption of the constitutional amendments deriving from the Prespa Agreement were used in order to spread such hysteria. However, what nobody expected was the implication of none other than the IT giant Google in this scenario.
The adjective “Macedonian” and the Macedonian language will be no more?
At the end of August 2018, on the eve of the referendum on the name change, a story was posted claiming that Google has deleted the Macedonian language, it provides the Bulgarian as an option. The fact that this case was mentioned in the article How Disinformation Harmed the Referendum in Macedonia on the blog of the German Marshall Fund of the United States (a non-partisan, nonprofit organization founded through a gift from Germany as a permanent memorial to Marshall Plan assistance) only shows that this was not to be taken lightly
Apparently, this narrative of disinformation “worked well”, so another attack on Google, this time on its subsidiary YouTube, was spread on 13 January 2019, claiming that YouTube deletes songs labeled as “Makedonski” (Macedonian). Again, the timing could not be more perfect, just two days after the adoption of the constitutional amendments which happened on 11 January, therefore implying that the Prespa Agreement denies the Macedonian identity. The trend on the social media to share Macedonian songs and spread the disinfo that YouTube is deleting Macedonian songs can be witnessed even today, mid-February 2019.
This narrative continues in March, but now that the world search engine , only a day prior the real change to happen, not as implied by these media, but in accordance with the Prespa Agreement.
Why this is not true and it remains only at the level of a conspiracy theory?
Of course, none of the stories is true. The fact is that Google, as one of the biggest IT companies, provides its services in many languages, including the Macedonian language. The Google Search (available in Macedonian) and Google Translate (where Macedonian is included among only 103 languages) are ample proof of this. In fact, the decisions made by a private company are not based on nationalism, but only on market logic, i.e. they only take into account whether some service is profitable or not, depending on the size of the market on which the appropriate service is sold.
The other story is even more ridiculous. After this story appeared, there were several waves of people posting such songs on Facebook. Browsing the YouTube in mid-February 2019, one can find an enormous number of songs with the label “Македонски” (Macedonian) as it can be seen here. Not to mention the fact that the only reason YouTube may remove some content is because of copyright infringements, the nature of the content or other types of violations, which can be checked here.
What is the cold truth?
These fake stories are used to incite nationalistic euphoria in order to combat the long-awaited resolution of the name dispute with Greece, which opened the Euro-Atlantic way for Macedonia and its definite placement in the Western world. The cold truth is that the private companies could not care less about such pathetic displays, and are operating in accordance with totally different principles – liberal and market-oriented ones, where the profit is the only ideology. The interest of Google is to increase, not to decrease the number of users on its services. The more users can be attracted, the better for the company, since this increases its marketing capability. This is especially the case with YouTube. To conclude, the Macedonian language is alive and well, not less on Google and YouTube.
The last in the series of attempts to misuse Google, by playing and combining words i.e. Macedonian Radio Television will be changed to Northern Macedonia Radio Television – meaning DEATH (СМРТ), was duly noted. All of these attempts have one common denominator and that is to manipulate the national feelings of the citizens and attack and undermine the Prespa Agreement and its implementation.
This project was funded in part through a U.S. Embassy grant. The opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed herein are those of the implementers/authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the U.S. Government.