Sweden Hands Off Its Twitter Account to Citizens, and Things Get Weird

How much transparency is good for tourism?

The people of Sweden would like you to visit Sweden. It is, like most tourist destinations, a lovely place, filled with breathtaking natural landscapes and a rich cultural history. Unlike most tourist destinations, it's also home to a surprisingly candid national Twitter feed written by a lineup of surprisingly candid Swedes.

     Since December, the government of the Scandinavian nation has handed the @Sweden account off to various citizens, letting them say more or less whatever they like—in the role of a pseudo-official national spokespeople. It's kind of like the voice of the nation, as The New York Times calls it in a story this week spotlighting interviews with a handful of the contributors, including an 18-year-old high-school student who tweeted that he was "Twittering while a photographer runs around trying to take a photo of how I look when I'm twittering." How meta! Maybe it's more like the id of a nation. The campaign, dreamed up by agency Volontaire, drew a fair amount of coverage back when it launched, including particular attention around the inaugural writer's masturbation straight-talk.

     What are the rules? The organizers discourage the writers from doing anything criminal and from casting their own political views as blanket representations of the country (which seems pretty obvious). Also, the creative director begs them to handle it "with some dignity," according to the Times. Whether they heed that plea probably depends on your definition of dignity. One tweet yesterday, for example, offers a disturbing take on what a mashup of the horror flick Seven and fairy-tale movie Snow White might look like (definitely NSFW). Another draws a dark and bizarre connection between Hitler and dolphins (also probably NSFW). Both were written by Sonja Abrahamsson, the account's current handler, who describes herself on the campaign site as a "27-year-old womanlike human being from northern Sweden." She's also a "single and low educated mother," but is sure to point out "at least I don't do drugs and prostitution." She has a blog, where Hitler seems to be a theme—apparently part of some running joke we don't quite get. Maybe that's because our grasp of the language is limited to Google Translate, or maybe Hitler isn't ever all that funny.

     In any event, those crazy Swedes were clearly trying to be, um, edgy, and they're clearly succeeding.

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@GabrielBeltrone gabriel.beltrone@gmail.com Gabriel Beltrone is a frequent contributor to Adweek.