The Swedish Institute has apologised after thousands of people, including YouTubers like PewDiePie and JonTron were blocked by the official @Sweden Twitter account, which lead to accusations that people were being placed on a ‘hate list’ due to their political views. The story is somewhat confusing, not least because all of the pertinent information is in Swedish, but based on our research we believe we have worked out what happened.
The @Sweden account is the official account for the country of Sweden (duh) and it is operated by the Swedish Institute , with the aim of drumming up tourism for the country. Now, here’s the interesting part: the account is run by a different Swedish citizen every week, meaning the content and tone of the account has the potential to drastically change every seven days. Users also have the right to block other accounts as they wish, and the latest owner decided to use that power in a major way, creating a huge block list.
Statement from the Swedish Institute (translated)
Users that found themselves on the so-called ‘hate list’ reacted very strongly, likely due to misunderstandings caused by language differences. Many appeared to think that the Swedish Government themselves had placed the users on some sort of official black list, but it is rather a simple case of one citizen causing a PR headache for the country’s tourist board. Among those blocked were youTubers like PewDiePie and JonTron, who have each faced backlash this year for making controversial jokes and racially insensitive comments respectively. The users have now been unblocked by the account.
Despite this overstep, the Institute said that it will continue in it’s efforts to deal with ‘näthat’ – the rather snappy Swedish word for ‘internet hate/trolling’. The Institute’s head of communications stated that: “We see that internet hate is a major concern for freedom of expression and freedom of opinion. It limits our curators, it frightens and that makes dialogue between people is decreasing. We hope to continue our work can help to find good ways for a more humane Twitter.”