Sweden to End Twitter Experiment Letting Ordinary People Be Nation’s Voice

STOCKHOLM — 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. After seven years of tweets 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 TV host Stephen Colbert even tried to become a curator for @sweden, but not being Swedish, he did not qualify.

But there have been controversies, and curators have been encouraged to add the hashtag #myownview to threads. At times, curators received hateful comments, particularly when they wrote about feminism or lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues. In 2016, administrators noticed an upswing in angry attacks.

“Earlier, the worry was that the curator would write something that crossed a line,” Emma Randecker, who administered the account, told the Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter in October 2016. “But now, that has changed and followers are interacting with the account in a way that crosses the line.”

Administrators added an alarm function that alerted them to an abnormal amount of activity on the account. A curator can block hateful or threatening followers from commenting, but when that person’s week is over, the accounts are unblocked again, Dagens Nyheter reported.

Asked if it was scary to let ordinary citizens be the voice of Sweden, Ms. Rudels said: “Yes, of course! And that has been the greatest thing that we have learned. Being on social media is to let go of control, but if you want to show Sweden as an open country, this is how to do it.”

She said @sweden is being 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.”

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