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Sweden Allows Private Citizen Access to Twitter Account -- And Wait Until You See What She Wrote About Jews

Sweden Allows Private Citizen Access to Twitter Account -- And Wait Until You See What She Wrote About Jews

"in one day @sweden went from global Twitter superstar to PR embarrassment"

STOCKHOLM (The Blaze/AP) -- Each week a different Swedish citizen runs the @sweden account on Twitter -- an experiment deemed the Curators of Sweden by promotional organizations to "present the country of Sweden through the mix of skills, experiences and opinions it actually consists of."

Like handing over the virtual keys to the country, it's a risk to let a different person -- chosen through a nomination process -- run the public online face of the country. Since being enacted late 2011, the initiative by the Swedish Institute and VisitSweden hasn't seen much action outside its own country until this week when @sweden, being run by a 27-year-old mother, began to tweet controversial posts about Jews.

Sonja Abrahamsson, describing herself as a "low educated" single mother of two from Goteborg, in Sweden's west, provocatively asked what makes a Jew a Jew, and used crude language.

"What's the fuzz with Jews" she asked in one tweet on the @sweden account, suggesting it's hard to tell them apart from other people and then went on to joke about Jewish circumcision.

In another, she said not even the Nazis could tell the difference: "In Nazi German(y) they even had to sew stars on their sleeves. If they didn't, they could never (k)now who was a Jew and who was not a Jew."

She also asked whether the Nazis sought to find the difference in the Jewish religion, or whether it was a "blood-thing" for them.

The reactions were immediate. One tweeter wrote "in one day @sweden went from global Twitter superstar to PR embarrassment."

Another suggested the Swedish chef from the Muppet show might as well assume control over the account, while others defended Abrahamsson's courage to raise her voice in such a frank way, politely answering her questions and sending her links to read more. One tweeter, who said she was Jewish, said she hadn't been offended at all.

Later, Abrahamsson apologized if she had offended anyone, saying that was not her purpose. "I just don't get why some people hate Jews so much," she added.

Maria Ziv, marketing director at Visit Sweden - a Public Relations agency that set up the project - said the Twitter account would not be shut down just because some people had been provoked.

If Abrahamsson's comments had been racist "we would have taken them down," she added.

The Wall Street Journal has more from the social media manager of Visit Sweden on censorship:

“It’s very important for us to let everyone take a unique viewpoint,” said Tommy Sollén, Social Media Manager at VisitSweden, in a phone interview. “Every one of our curators is there with a different perspective.”

Mr. Sollén noted that Sonja is the initiative’s 24th curator and past participants have had a range of occupations, including journalists, truck drivers and school teachers.

“Some of them have been talking about music, some of them have been talking about food,” he said. “Sonja is more focused on her own brand of humor and asking probing questions.”

Swedes frown on censorship, Mr. Sollén said, and to selectively delete posts or ban a particular participant could be seen as blatant censorship. “You cannot look at any specific tweet, you can only judge a curator on the whole week…How else are you going to show the multi-faceted people that Sweden is composed of?”

Tweeters have so far included both a female priest and a lesbian truck-driver.

The tweets are not pre-read or censored, but personal political opinions are to be followed with the hash-tag #myownopinion.

Here are some of Sonja's other tweets thus far:

Earlier this month, the New York Times reported Patrick Kampmann, the creative director for the advertising company hired to help run the campaign, said the curators are told to "engage in normal twitter activity":

“I tell them, ‘Please, do this with some dignity — remember that this is an official channel and there are a lot of people reading this, so don’t make a fool of yourself,’ ” he said. “It’s only a soft suggestion.”

As of Wednesday, the @sweden account had more than 43,300 followers and almost 20,000 tweets.

Read all the tweets of curators past and present in the archive here.

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