Future Tense

R.I.P. @Sweden

The highs and lows of an experiment in democratic social media curation.

A group of people waves small Swedish flags, which are blue with a yellow crosses, during the national day celebrations at Skansen on June 6, 2017 in Stockholm, Sweden.
People wave the Swedish flag in Stockholm, Sweden.
Michael Campanella/Getty Images

In December 2011, Sweden handed over the reins of its official Twitter account to a group of unlikely jockeys: its own people. The idea was simple. Each week, a different person would take control of the account, free to tweet about (basically) whatever they wanted. Now, after nearly seven years, 356 curators, and about 200,000 tweets, @sweden’s experiment with democratic social media curation is set to end on Sept. 30.

Known as the Curators of Sweden, the project was carried out by Visit Sweden and the Swedish Institute in order to “show—in practice—that Sweden is an open and democratic country.” Administrators said they would delete tweets only if they violated Swedish law, promoted a brand, or represented a security threat.

And while the idea behind the project was simple, its results were complicated. Tweets from the account, which currently has 146,000 followers, bounced from funny to offensive to informative to mundane, generating international attention along the way. In honor of @sweden’s last tweets, we’ve collected highlights and lowlights of the grand experiment.

June 6, 2018: when a 15-year-old shut down haters of multiculturalism

Maja Cedmert had little tolerance for anonymous profiles with Islamophobic and anti-immigrant comments.

May 15, 2018: that time a former prison officer gave us a glimpse inside Sweden’s criminal justice system

Daniel, who formerly worked at a high-security prison and used only his first name for safety reasons, also dove into topics like abortion and gun ownership.

May 9, 2017: that time we were reminded that there are some weather-related difficulties to tweeting in Sweden, even in May

Vian Tahir also brought attention to racism, sexism, homophobia, and other problematic content that became more commonly directed toward the account starting in 2016.

Feb. 20–27, 2017: when @sweden defended journalism and engaged in stringent fact-checking

After Trump falsely implied there had been a terror attack in Sweden during remarks at a campaign rally in Florida, Max Karlsson used “fact dumps” to set the record straight.

Nov. 9, 2016: the time we talked about strawberries so we didn’t have to talk about the new U.S. president

Matt Anderson, an American expat living in Sweden, had the tricky task of manning @sweden the week of the U.S. Election Day. After a while, the pressure was too much, and he turned to tweeting about produce.

June 12, 2016: when an 81-year-old Swede took us to school on internet accessibility

Power-tweeter Birgitta Jonsson wasted no time in explaining the importance of internet access in senior living homes and nursing facilities.

April 19, 2015: that time we learned a lot about chicken genetics

Martin Johnsson was clear that the goal of his curation was not to present groundbreaking insights about Swedishness, but rather to give followers “a new appreciation for the chicken comb.” He also answered the chicken vs. egg question. (He says the egg came first.)

Aug. 18, 2014: when a Swedish minister and political cartoonist started his Twitter takeover by joking about kitten slaughter

To be clear, fika is indeed a term for a Swedish coffee break. But points to Kent Wisti for … creativity?

July 8–15, 2013: when we were both confused and intrigued by @sweden’s instructions for how to cook food in our coffee makers

Katja Wulff cooks “pretty much everything” in a coffee maker, and for a week she (tried) to teach us how to do so too …

June 11–12, 2012: the time @sweden got really anti-Semitic

Sonja Abrahamsson decided to use the platform for an offensive rant on “Jews.” The Swedish Institute and Visit Sweden told Foreign Policy they stood behind her right to use to account to express herself in “controversial ways.”

Jan. 16–23, 2012: the time a “truck driving, coffee drinking lesbian” took us on a journey involving icy roads and tweeting while driving

Hanna Fange made headlines around the world with her interesting on-the-road observations.

Dec. 24, 2011: that time a @sweden curator used his platform to discuss his family’s experience fleeing the war in Bosnia

Hasan Ramic said his tweets tried to “represent the more ‘colorful’ side of Sweden, the one I know. The one that doesn’t scare me.”

Dec. 10–18, 2011: when @sweden wasted no time in keeping things interesting

The account’s first curator, Jack Werner, decided to use his new and exciting platform to tweet about sex and masturbation.

While the Curators of Sweden project is coming to a close, all of the tweets from the past seven years are available in a searchable online archive. When I asked her via Twitter, Rebecka Strȧhlén, the current @sweden curator, told me she was sad that “no more Swedish voices will have the chance to be heard and represent their country (be it by birth or choice), and that the audience so clearly will miss it.” For now, all we can say is farväl.