Before President Trump’s reference on Saturday to a terror attack in Sweden, the biggest story in Stockholm was this one: a report about the so-called “fake news” industry published by Dagens Nyheter, a Swedish newspaper.
But Trump’s remark was met with a collective “What did he just say?” in Sweden, a country recognized by most Americans as largely peaceful, except in, say, Stieg Larsson novels.
“You look at what’s happening last night in Sweden,” the president said to his supporters at a campaign-style rally in Melbourne, Fla., on Saturday. “Sweden, who would believe this?” Trump later explained he was watching a Fox News segment that featured a documentary filmmaker accusing the Swedish government of covering up an immigration-related crime wave there.
In response, Swedish officials from the prime minister on down have taken to social media to debunk those claims. And leading the defense is Sweden’s official Twitter handle, @Sweden, an unusual account that is curated by a different Swedish citizen each week.
This week, that suddenly important job fell to Max Karlsson, a 22-year-old paralegal and trumpet player from Stockholm who found out he would be @Sweden’s curator earlier this month.
Karlsson has spent the past two days firing off tweets correcting the assertions made by Trump and others by “dumping” facts.
Karlsson told Yahoo News that he’s had a mostly positive experience conversing with both pro- and anti-Trump Twitter users.
“I’ve had great conversations with both Trump opponents and Trump voters about how we can have discussions based on facts, and why polarization is hurting the truth,” Karlsson said. “But I have also learned and relearned that some people are unwilling to face facts, ready to threaten others for their agenda and willing to smear opponents with degrading remarks just to prove a point. I can’t believe some adults are allowed online.”
The @Sweden account has been run by a guest citizen each week since 2011, when the Swedish government decided to allow “curators, through their tweets, [to] create interest and arouse curiosity for Sweden and everything the country has to offer.”
According to the Swedish Institute, curators “are free to write whatever they want,” provided their tweets don’t violate Swedish law, don’t “promote a commercial brand” and are not deemed “a security threat.” And each curator has the right to block people who interact with the @Sweden account.
Karlsson says he’s muted “quite a few accounts that were extreme” but has only blocked two that threatened him.
“I’ve been accused of working for CNN and being a snowflake communist,” he said. “And that was something I didn’t see myself being last week.”
Karlsson described the experience of maintaining Sweden’s official Twitter account and interacting with its 115,000-plus followers in the wake of Trump’s remarks a “heavy” one.
Not that he needed a reality check.
“My mom called me today to ask if everyone is behaving properly towards me online,” he said.
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