Sweden faces outrage after Jewish tweets in Twitter experiment
It took the brave step of turning its official twitter account over to a different Swede each week.
On paper an interesting but risky plan — get real Swedes to promote the country as it really is instead of PR flacks. It clearly had the potential to backfire and now it has in spectacular style with a string of tweets about Nazis and Jews highlighting how easy it is to court disaster with social media.
The problem from the outset was not only that the @sweden account would pass from individual to individual, but that there were very few guidelines issued to these digital ambassadors, who were representing their country to the rest of the world.
The inevitable finally happened this week, when Sonja Abrahamsson was handed the @sweden account, and began tweeting about the Nazis and…ummm…how to identify if someone is Jewish:
CEO of visit Sweden, Thoms Bruhl, commenting on the project told Mashable:
“No one owns the brand of Sweden more than its people. With this initiative we let them show their Sweden to the world.”
The tourist board wanted authentic Swedish content, as opposed to PR guff, but offensive race related tweets probably isn’t what they intended. For some it might help cement an existing image of Swedish people, that of of blonde blue eyed, and remind others of the murky collaboration of some Swedes with Nazi Germany from the Second World War.
It’s hardly the image that Sweden wants to project of itself to the rest of the world.
The attention has put its Twitter account clearly in the spotlight and following New York Times coverage of the experiment the @sweden handle got a 10,000 plus follower spike and now has over 43, 000 followers.
Unfortunately recently developments are likely to have put of other tourist board trying a similar approach, and it will be interesting to see if the @sweden project continues after this incident.
For her own part Abrahamsson wrote that, being from rural Sweden, she did not know many Jews and apologised “if some of you find the question offensive”. “Thats was not my purpose,” she said, “I just don’t get why some people hates jews so much.”
However, the experiment is likely to put others off trying it or at least highlight the need for a stringent set of guidelines.
Having guest tweeters discussing race and raise questions such as Abrahamsson has done is not what any tourist authority would want to see although Sweden seems to be ready to ride it out.
As others have pointed out the @sweden case also highlights perfectly Godwin’s Law about the chance of Nazis being mentioned in online discussions:
Godwin’s law (also known as Godwin’s Rule of Nazi Analogies or Godwin’s Law of Nazi Analogies) is an observation made by Mike Godwin in 1990 that has become anInternet adage. It states: “As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1.” In other words, Godwin observed that, given enough time, in any online discussion—regardless of topic or scope—someone inevitably makes some comparison to Hitler and the Nazis, from Wikipedia.