The @Sweden experiment is why Twitter isn’t supposed to be a shared account

@sweden sonjaThe country of Sweden recently decided to turn to the masses for its social networking means, giving over the @Sweden Twitter handle to a different Swedish citizen every week. The project is being called Curators of Sweden, and the idea is that for seven days, whoever controls @Sweden “recommends things to do, places to see, [shares] diverse opinions, and ideas along the way. After that, someone else does the same – but differently.”

It’s an initiative sponsored by the National Board for the promotion of Sweden, and is an effort to communicate with the rest of the world by letting its citizens speak. Unfortunately, when you relinquish control to everyone… you relinquish control to anyone.

In what can be seen as an inevitable turn of events, a Swede named Sonja Abrahamsson (who also goes by Sonja “Hitler” Abrahamsson on her blog) has been given the reigns to run @Sweden, and she’s been busy offending plenty of followers in the process.

@sweden - hitler @sweden - princess @sweden - first @sweden - jewish

The Curators of Sweden project has been going on for six months without controversy, until this week – although the stunt is likely getting just the type of publicity its creators were looking for. Stephen Colbert announced his own desire to host the @Sweden account for a week, which according to the Curators of Sweden’s policies, isn’t outside the realm of possibility (right now it’s only for Swedish citizens, but exceptions could be made).

It’s certainly an interesting and attention-getting idea, and isn’t without its merits. That said, there are some significant shortcomings:  

  • For starters, photos. Twitter has really improved its gallery view, but from this page you can’t see who posted what picture. You only see the most recent user photo.
  • People inherently want to talk about themselves. There’s a scattering of interesting facts and photos being posted from the @Sweden account, but if you’re only occasionally wandering across the handle, you’d be lucky to see them. Many users spend their week talking about themselves – and if you want to inspire me to visit Sweden, a description of how annoying someone’s children are is not the best method.
  • Right now, @Sweden is stuck with someone who seems mostly ignorant rather than purposefully offensive, but given that the application is open to anyone and the Internet is what it is, you’re just asking for negative attention.

If there’s anything we’ve learned about social media, it’s that gatekeepers are good, and that there is such a thing as bad publicity.