It was a radical experiment in free speech, even for Sweden: give ordinary and not-so-ordinary people the chance to be, more or less, the official voice of a nation.
By – Christina Anderson
After seven years of Twitter posts on topics as varied as manga comics, ugly sweaters and the dangers of prescription drugs, Sweden is calling it quits.
Since 2011, control of the Twitter account @sweden has been handed to a different person each week, allowing the curators to tweet about almost anything they please. At the end of September, after 356 curators and more than 200,000 tweets, the “experiment” will end.
The messages, largely in English, have ranged from didactic to deeply personal, polite to racy. Along the way, @sweden has provoked heads of state, stirred controversy, got laughs, earned 147,000 followers and even drew some imitators.
Finland and Ukraine began @peopleoffinland and @Ukraine. The late-night US comedian and TV host Stephen Colbert even tried to become a curator for @sweden, but not being Swedish, he did not qualify.
The Swedish Institute, a government agency dedicated to promoting the country abroad, and Visit Sweden, a tourism group, created the campaign as a way to show the world Sweden and the spirit of “openness and transparency” in a country that has had an anti-censorship law since 1766.
“The idea of one Swede every week was a way of making it authentic and show the openness of how we try to communicate and do things together with people, with a lot interaction and engagement,” said Anna Rudels, the head of communication and digitalization at the Swedish Institute, said of the Twitter project.
The curators are chosen by a committee — the youngest was 15, the oldest 81 — and each new one became a mini-celebrity. Many used the opportunity to indulge in their favourite subjects or causes — environmental sustainability, linguistics and food were popular topics — while others just chronicled their lives.
Rudels said @sweden would be shut down because its creators wanted to broaden their scope. Most of the account’s followers come from Sweden, Britain and the United States.
“The geographical reach is too limited,” she said. “Now we want to find the new thing, that will reach more people.”
Read more: From 2018/09/13