How Sweden Handed Its Official Twitter Account Over To A Troll

from the what's-next,-rickrolling? dept

Over the weekend, the NY Times profiled the fact that Sweden hands its official @Sweden twitter account over to a different citizen each week, and lets them control it. It was the brain child of the Swedish Institute and the national tourist agency -- with the idea of showcasing some of Sweden's quirkiness. And, from the sound of the NY Times article, it had been mostly working. Some of the tweets were a bit edgy or weird, but nothing too crazy. Until now. Right after the article came out, Sweden handed the account over to a woman named Sonja Abrahamsson -- who proceeded to surprise a lot of people (including many new @Sweden followers, due to the NY Times coverage) with a series of tweets that one could deem offensive to just about anyone -- including ignorant or offensive statements and questions about Jews, gays, Africans, those with downs syndrome, those with AIDS and a variety of other people/groups as well. An example:

This has, not surprisingly, received a fair bit of media attention, with people questioning what happened.

Of course, the most obvious answer is that Sweden handed its Twitter account over to a troll. The topic choices are so troll-worthy that it's hard to believe that the person behind the account is genuinely saying these things. It seems quite clear that it's standard troll behavior: say stupid stuff to get people to react -- and tons of people are feeding the troll in response. The really stunning part, of course, is that the folks who manage the account didn't realize this ahead of time. As multiple people have pointed out, Sonja's own blog has plenty of evidence of similar trolling activities on a smaller scale.

And, perhaps, the Swedish tourist board actually did this on purpose. A spokesperson defended giving Sonja control of the account:
“It’s very important for us to let everyone take a unique viewpoint,” said Tommy Sollen, Social Media Manager at VisitSweden, in a phone interview. “Every one of our curators is there with a different perspective.” ....

“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.”
So they seem to recognize that trolling is a "brand of humor." And I'm surprised that no one has yet mentioned the fact that the NY Times article was sent from the town of Trollhattan, Sweden. It's like they were born to troll...

Of course, if Sweden is going to let @Sweden be trolled, it was only a matter of time until Stephen Colbert asked for control of the account, and urged the Colbert Nation to convince the Swedish tourism bureau to allow non-Swedes to control the account -- something they've said they might consider "in the future."
Oh, and while having a troll be your official representation online for a week may, at first pass, seem like a bad thing, it is worth noting that it looks like the number of people following @Sweden has more than doubled since the NY Times article came out -- with much of the increase happening in just the last day or so after the whole trolling thing started to get more attention.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 14th, 2012 @ 10:23am

    cant be stream from anywhere but us.

     

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  2.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 14th, 2012 @ 10:23am

    A second hand story trying to be outraged at people not being politically correct American style.
    Can't you think of anything worth writing any more ?

     

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  3.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 14th, 2012 @ 10:30am

    Trolls of the world unite!

    Finally, our time has come! For too long our brand of humor has been the object of ridicule by others. No more shall we stand for it!

    Good job in representing us, Sonja. I'll be nominating you for Troll of the Year at our next meeting.

     

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  4.  
    identicon
    Simon, Jun 14th, 2012 @ 10:32am

    Oh come on!

    The tweets about Jews weren't trolling at all! Sonja was just, albeit quite ham-fisted due to her subpar English, trying to understand why it was Jews who the Nazis tried to exterminate. This is my interpretation: she was thinking about racism in other scenarios where things like skin color marks a difference between people, and couldn't find the difference between jewish people and "caucasian" (or whatever the correct term for "white" is) (pardon my less than great English; I am also a Swede), and asked why Hitler and his pals went after the Jews. Sure, the question is very blunt, poorly written and a bit uneducated, but is it trolling to the extent that it's racist? In my eyes, no.

    She did write another couple of things, less well-known, that imho were far worse than the "Jew tweets", but that's a completely different story.

     

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  5.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 14th, 2012 @ 10:36am

    Re: Oh come on!

    I thought that originally, but she's pretty clearly a troll. Though you see a lot of the classic "lost in translation" awkward sentences, as well.

    But, I don't see why Sweden should have excluded her from curating.

     

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  6.  
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    jupiterkansas (profile), Jun 14th, 2012 @ 10:38am

    Trollhatten

    I'm happy to finally know where trolls come from. I imagine it's like an evil Munchkinland.

     

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  7.  
    identicon
    Simon, Jun 14th, 2012 @ 10:40am

    Re: Re: Oh come on!

    I follow her regular Twitter account, and by no means does she troll there. She may post videos of her folding her breasts, but that's deffo not troll-o!

     

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  8.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 14th, 2012 @ 10:41am

    Unrelated, but I do highly recommend the movie Trollhunter if you haven't seen it yet.

     

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  9.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 14th, 2012 @ 10:41am

    Re:

    Quick, we need to call the WAMMMBULANCE

     

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  10.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 14th, 2012 @ 10:43am

    Good that the Sweden officials didn't freak out. In a Democracy, even the idiots and the bigots should have the right to speak up, although, they shouldn't be surprised if people do not enjoy their message.

    Once again, "bad speech" must be fought with more (and better speech), not by silencing it.

     

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  11.  
    identicon
    Simon, Jun 14th, 2012 @ 10:50am

    Re:

    Why are those tweets "bad speech"?

     

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  12.  
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    The eejit (profile), Jun 14th, 2012 @ 11:06am

    Re: Re:

    Because they confront people with hot button topics, apparently. Not that Poe's Law doesn't apply or anything...

     

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  13.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 14th, 2012 @ 11:07am

    Mike,

    You should follow suit - let bob write articles for a week. *evil laugh*

     

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  14.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 14th, 2012 @ 11:07am

    There is only one way to correct this imbalance #ArtificialSwedener

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
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    Brent (profile), Jun 14th, 2012 @ 11:11am

    I thought that sequence of tweets from the image was hilarious. I imagined all of the angry response tweets coming in faster and faster as she kept trying to tweet a paragraph of questions but had to break it down to 140 characters each time. I started cracking up after the last one.

    If i had seen all of her other tweets and obviously saw her as a troll, it wouldn't be as funny but out of context, pretty humorous. That also goes along with the offensive nature of the tweets. By themselves, those tweets are not offensive but once you know that she's a troll and doing it on purpose, you would take offense pretty quickly.

     

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  16.  
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    Brent (profile), Jun 14th, 2012 @ 11:13am

    Re:

    i don't know who bob is but i think Mike should let a different AC write an article each week. it might be logistically impossible, but if there's a way, it would be worth it.

     

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  17.  
    identicon
    Garfunkel, Jun 14th, 2012 @ 11:17am

    Re: Re: Re: Oh come on!

    I agree with Simon. I was expecting a clear case of trolling thanks to the title of this article, but it didn't come across that way when I read it. The question seems genuine to me.

    One needs to realize that different parts of the world vary in their tolerance of PC versus non-PC. I'm betting most Swedes don't see her comments as trolling either.

    It's an interesting question too. With skin color the difference is obvious, making that type of racism self explanatory. With Jewish folks it's not so obvious, so one inevitably wonders why so much hate when there is no apparent difference between the hater and the target of their hate? Especially when being Jewish technically has nothing to do with race, something the Nazi's were really big on. I know the answer, but from the point of view of someone who doesn't their question would feel purely innocent.

    Could it have been written better? Probably. You have to ask yourself which is more important though, enforcing your own personal definition of what's politically correct on others, something that can be very subjective, or forgiving the person who asked in a manner that was obviously an unintentional blunder born out of language difficulties?

     

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  18.  
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    ethorad (profile), Jun 14th, 2012 @ 11:20am

    Re:

    This.

    Mike - Along similar lines to your recent post stating you will no longer link to whoever it was who demanded you negotiate a fee for "fair use", how about stopping linking to content which will only stream in certain countries?

     

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  19.  
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    harbingerofdoom (profile), Jun 14th, 2012 @ 11:31am

    Re: Re: Re: Oh come on!

    did you just say.....folding????

     

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  20.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 14th, 2012 @ 11:32am

    Re: Re:

    There is a way.

    We are already doing it here ;)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
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    Chuck Norris' Enemy (deceased) (profile), Jun 14th, 2012 @ 11:42am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Oh come on!

    "lost in translation" methinks. Fondling or holding probably.

     

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  22.  
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    TriZz (profile), Jun 14th, 2012 @ 11:43am

    Re: Oh come on!

    I agree. She's a bit naive, but definitely not a troll.

    She actually works for the government of Swedish tourism or something like that...that's why she got control of the account, NOT because they pulled her name out of a hat consisting of the census.

     

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  23.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 14th, 2012 @ 11:45am

    Re:

    What she said was fucked up however she is entitled to believe what she wants. Just like it's my right to think she's a dumb bitch. See how that works?

     

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  24.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 14th, 2012 @ 11:48am

    Re: Re:

    Completely different scenario. The Sweden tweets show the many different faces (good, bad, ugly) of Sweden. It illustrates how colorful a place it is.

    I don't care to see how varied the visitors of Techdirt are.
    If I wanted to go to a place where anyone can post articles, I'd go to Reddit.
    I read Techdirt, because it has consistently proven itself as a place that highlights news that's important to me and provides interesting insights. In the past, there have been commenters who have been invited to write articles here (e.g. Nina, DH, etc). They have proven themselves as insightful people that make significant contributions to discussions that are important to this community. And that's been great. I wouldn't come here so often,if I had to wade through lots of troll articles before I found something interesting.
    ACs, like myself, purposely avoid building a history of comments. We accept not accumulating good karma as the price we pay for our anonymity. I'd recommend not letting us near the keys to the Techdirt car.

     

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  25.  
    identicon
    Simon, Jun 14th, 2012 @ 12:18pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Oh come on!

    Yes, I said folding. Here's the tweet. https://twitter.com/sweden/status/212848105622745088

    Sonja is a very funny person, who does what she pleases.

     

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  26.  
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    Travis, Jun 14th, 2012 @ 12:43pm

    Seriously...

    This is the first TD article I've disagreed with. If you think what Sonja said was trolling, you've got VERY thin skin. She actually asked some very intelligent questions, if in a bit of an off color way. Let's be honest - unless he's wearing traditional Jewish religious clothing - you couldn't tell most jews from anyone else. They're black, white, asian, african, etc. etc. etc. This is NOT Trolling. Good god people are we a little TOO sensitive about race and political correctness?

     

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  27.  
    identicon
    rasz, Jun 14th, 2012 @ 12:46pm

    >one could deem offensive to just about anyone

    No, actually only Americans deem them offensive. Super politically correct Americans that use N-word in the news but are fine dancing to some black dude singing about his N....r (lol, this word is censored haha) life fucking some bi...es.

    If anything Sonya just showcased your bigotry.

     

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  28.  
    identicon
    rasz, Jun 14th, 2012 @ 12:48pm

    >one could deem offensive to just about anyone

    No, actually only Americans deem them offensive. Super politically correct Americans that use N-word in the news but are fine dancing to some black dude singing about his N....r (lol, this word is censored haha) life fucking some bi...es.

    If anything Sonya just showcased your bigotry.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29.  
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    Cerberus (profile), Jun 14th, 2012 @ 1:11pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Oh come on!

    Very well said. As a European, I find Sonja's twitterings a bit silly, but acceptable, and certainly not "offensive". I hope your comment gets the most "Insightful" votes. You know what offends me? Political correctness. Sorry.

     

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  30.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Jun 14th, 2012 @ 1:57pm

    Re: Seriously...

    If you think what Sonja said was trolling, you've got VERY thin skin

    If it was just that one set of tweets, I would have just thought her to be ignorant. But as the Forbes article points out, she's basically hit on just about every possible hot button topic with similar tweets of ignorance. That's what makes her a troll. Not just this set of tweets.

     

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  31.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 14th, 2012 @ 2:05pm

    Re: Re:

    What is a WAMMMBULANCE?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  32.  
    identicon
    Christopher Swing, Jun 14th, 2012 @ 2:47pm

    Fucking Hulu

    Nice that the video can't be streamed outside the US.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  33.  
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    nospacesorspecialcharacters (profile), Jun 14th, 2012 @ 4:08pm

    If I'm honest I lol'd. For all the Merkins getting butthurt over this, It's no worse than a number of American comedians such as Daniel Tosh or Sarah Silverman to give examples.

    I've seen a late night Sarah Silverman stage broadcast which was way more offensive (directed towards Mexicans) - I was pretty shocked actually that these kinds of jokes fly in America. In some parts of the world they'd be considered hugely racist.

    I suppose the medium does partially account for the level of outrage, though.

     

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  34.  
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    skinny poppy (profile), Jun 14th, 2012 @ 4:18pm

    Trollhattan is a real town in Sweden. SAAB had a car factory there back when they built cars. I had the bumper sticker "Made by trolls in Trollhattan". That doesn't excuse the epic humor failures, though.

     

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  35.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Jun 14th, 2012 @ 4:34pm

    Re:

    If I'm honest I lol'd. For all the Merkins getting butthurt over this, It's no worse than a number of American comedians such as Daniel Tosh or Sarah Silverman to give examples.

    Did anyone suggest that only Swedes can troll? Of course Americans do trolling all the time too...

     

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  36.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 14th, 2012 @ 4:54pm

    Damn, we need to get a brony in control of that account sometime. I would lol so hard : D

     

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  37.  
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    Watchit (profile), Jun 14th, 2012 @ 4:56pm

    Re:

    Btw, this is me. Forgot to sign in :P

     

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  38.  
    identicon
    Jonathan, Jun 14th, 2012 @ 10:19pm

    How about they hand it over to Julian Assange for a minute while he's visiting there?

     

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  39.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 14th, 2012 @ 11:08pm

    Re:

    Funny facts: I have no idea if this is the origin of the name but...

    Troll = Troll
    Hätta = Hat (sort of)
    "n" at the end = usually the same as "The"

    Trollhättan = Thetrollhat

    Sometimes things get lost in translation :)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  40.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 14th, 2012 @ 11:47pm

    So basically she was saying that Jewish people are the same as everyone else and that she doesn't understand why they are so persecuted.

    In what way AT ALL is that trolling?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  41.  
    identicon
    n8_Mills, Jun 15th, 2012 @ 12:26am

    Re: Oh come on!

    Good effort, Troll!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  42.  
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    indieThing, Jun 15th, 2012 @ 3:40am

    Re:

    Seconded!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  43.  
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    Niall (profile), Jun 15th, 2012 @ 5:20am

    Re: Re: Re:

    I think he means WAAAAAAHMBULANCE.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  44.  
    identicon
    PC-Americana, Jun 15th, 2012 @ 5:24am

    Re:

    Many Americans are ultra sensitive, and have a Victorian style, old school "politically correct" set of rigid social norms...

     

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  45.  
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    Simon, Jun 15th, 2012 @ 9:51am

    Re:

    Lolwhat?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  46.  
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    Jesse (profile), Jun 16th, 2012 @ 9:38am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Oh come on!

    I can't agree more. Normally, I think I come off as overly politically correct. But even to me, these questions are right on point. Why do people hate Jews? Most of the time, you can't even tell if a person is Jewish. (As if physical differences are a good reason to hate someone.)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  47.  
    identicon
    Ilfar, Jun 20th, 2012 @ 12:40am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Aww man, does that mean I have to put away my 80s dance gear?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  48.  
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    Sheogorath (profile), Apr 25th, 2013 @ 8:19pm

    To paraphrase Azealia Banks:

    "I guess that cunt ain't gettin' eaten."

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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