Sweden's "democratic Twitter account", which each week is hosted by a citizen who tweets about anything that comes to mind, came under fire Wednesday after a user aired sensitive questions about Jews.
The Twitter homepage is seen on a computer screen. Sweden's "democratic Twitter account", which each week is hosted by a citizen who tweets about anything that comes to mind, came under fire after a user aired sensitive questions about Jews.
Sonja Abrahamsson, a 27-year-old "single and low educated mother" according to her own description, was handed the reins to the official @Sweden Twitter account this week and almost immediately stirred controversy.
"What(')s the fuzz with Jews," she tweeted Tuesday seemingly out of the blue to the account's more than 42,000 followers, insisting it was difficult to tell Jews apart from other people "unless you see their penises, and even if you do, you can't be sure."
She went on to point out that "in Nazi German(y), they even had to sew stars on their sleeves. If they didn't, they could never never (k)now who was a Jew and who was not a Jew."
And she asked what it meant to be Jewish: "Why were the Nazis talking about races? Was it a blood-thing (for them)?" she tweeted.
Amid an onslaught of reactions, Abrahamsson, who usually airs her opinions on a blog and her own Twitter account @hejsonja, wrote: "I(')m sorry if some of you find the question(s) offensive. That was not my purpose. I just don't get why some people hate Jews so much."
"I thought it was a good idea to ask the question when so many well educated people all over the world can answer. But no. Bad idea," she admitted.
The Twittosphere went wild: "Holy s***! Love the idea of Swedes running the @Sweden, but this is insane... Freedom of speech gone wrong," one commentator wrote.
The government-run Swedish Institute and the country's official tourism board, Visit Sweden, which jointly created the Twitter project last December, said they had been flooded with questions about the controversy, but stressed they had no plans to take action.
"We don't want to upset people, but at the same time it is important for us that we don't fall into censorship," Visit Sweden's communications chief Maria Ziw told AFP, pointing out that the whole idea of creating "the world's most democratic Twitter account" was to promote transparency and openness.
The so-called curators invited to be the voice of @Sweden for a week "are supposed to be a mosaic of opinions," agreed Sergio Guimaraes of the Swedish Institute, insisting to AFP that the project was an exercise in freedom of expression and censorship would defeat that purpose.
"This is not the first time a curator has expressed themselves in a provocative way, and I in no way expect it to be the last," he said, adding: "It's good to discuss these issues openly."
There are rules however: curators are not permitted to tweet about anything that threatens national security, to break Swedish laws or to promote or advertise products or services while using the account.
"If (Abrahamsson) had gone further and had gone into (illegal) hate speech, which I absolutely do not think was her intention, we would have closed the account," Ziw said.
"But we don't think she did so, and neither do our lawyers," she said, adding: I think she was careless, but she did not do anything illegal."
Would-be curators need to be Twitter savvy and to be proposed by someone else. The organisers who choose them from a list of candidates say they tend to be fond of launching debates and discussions.
One requirement is to be able to write in English.
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