Uncensored @Sweden Continues to Shock and Inspire

After six months of curators, it doesn’t seem like the @Sweden account is losing anyone’s interest. Major news outlets, like the New York Times, ABC News, and Mashable have released new articles about the account, and more specifically the most recent Curator of Sweden.

Sonja Abrahamsson, who normally tweets as @hejsonja, has been the official Curator of Sweden for the past week (June 11-17). She’s had a controversial reign, peppered with naughty language at times and what some consider naïve – and others ignorant – questions about Jewish people. After her week, she leaves the account with 62,321 followers (and counting!), an increase by 30,000 in seven days.

@Sweden follower count from 6/11 – 17 via twittercounter.com

One blogger, Jennifer Newell, wrote an article aiming to explain any misconceptions people might have about Sonja’s tweeting. While the @Sweden account continues to open mainstream discussion on controversial topics, it also serves to point out the differences in Sweden and the United States. While one country freely allows its citizens to tweet uncensored, another’s news outlets sensationalize the content. Different approaches, but similar in the attempt to gain audience attention.

Nelson Bonner, creator of @TweetWeekUSA, has recognized Twitter’s revolutionary communication potential. He says “I think the movement offers a rare opportunity to share in the life experience of individuals within other cultural groups that is truly unprecedented.” He goes on to say, “Even when people tweet with trivial content, it seems to me that this is valuable information about their life experience and therefore important to the texture of the project.”

Curated accounts are inherently prone to offending someone due to miscommunication. To prevent the likelihood of this, @TweetWeekUSA has a “policy of adhering to language that would be suitable for broadcast TV.” However, he is starting to reconsider, “I think there is something to be said for being totally uncensored and letting the chips fall back on the individual. As long as the curator rotates every week…no lasting damage would ensue…and there might be more to be gained by being able to offer a truly uncensored platform than there would be lost by the inevitability of some occasional crudeness.”

If @Sweden is any indication, an uncensored account isn’t going to deter followers due to what some perceive as negative content. With an upcoming Presidential election this year, it would be interesting to watch if @TweetWeekUSA curators are given, and take, the opportunity to voice uncensored opinions. I wonder what the American media giants would say in regards to some heavy views by it’s own citizens?

Curated Social Media: How @Sweden has Inspired Twitter

It would be those Swedes, famous for minimalist design and the concept of lagom, to inspire the world in only 140 characters.

Gamla Stan, Stockholm. Photo by Katie Haverluk

In December 2011, Swedish citizens became in charge of their country’s official Twitter account. Tasked with representing their country on a global, social platform, the direct involvement by the people, for their country led to the self-proclaimed “most democratic Twitter account.”

Go ahead…check out @Sweden.

ZooEffect WordPress plugin

All images by Katie Haverluk

Late in 2011, Visit Sweden and the Swedish Institute, along with creative agency Volantaire, decided that the citizens should “tweet” for their own country. Calling the project the Curators of Sweden, it expands on the idea that, as CEO Thomas Brühl says, “a single voice cannot describe Sweden.”

About the Curators of Sweden via curatorsofsweden.com

According to the results of an online survey, as published by Visit Sweden in “A Guide to Sweden – Sweden” tourist magazine, potential visitors associate the country with nature, being cold and expensive, IKEA, and blonde people; however, through Twitter, Swedes have proven to be much more than their global stereotype. Sweden is celebrating the unique diversity that truly makes up its population by publicly endorsing its citizens’ opinions via social media.

Ask yourself: Would the United States do this? How about Egypt?  Would businesses even think of letting their customers tweet for or about them?

What Sweden has started on Twitter is revolutionary. The world’s opinion of Sweden lies directly in its citizen’s hands.

Nominated Individuals

In order to be considered as a potential Curator, one must be a Swedish citizen, active Twitter user, and nominated by another person.

Anna Åberg, a Curator from March 5-11, didn’t know she was nominated and in the running to represent Sweden. “I just got a phone call,” she said, “ ‘Hi, we’re doing this project, do you know about us?’ ‘Yeah, I know about that, I’ve followed for a couple weeks.’  I knew about it, I was very pleased, I was like, why me?” Åberg was able to choose a week that suited her best, “I need a week when I work a lot. I can see the interest in me working as a firefighter.”

The goal of the project, to increase interest in Sweden for tourism and international relations, has certainly been fulfilled by the diverse Curators. Going from 8,000 to nearly 29,000 followers in just 5 months, each person has engaged with curious followers by answering questions, discussing their Swedish life, and sometimes stirring up controversy.

“They encourage you to just be you, to keep on talking about what you think is important.” In deciding what she wanted to talk about, Åberg said, “I’m one of a hundred female firefighters, it’s important for me to talk about gender roles and what we promote girls to do or not to do. So, I took the chance, and it ended up with great discussions.”

What Sweden Has Created

@Sweden certainly isn’t a stranger to controversy. The very first curator, Jack, managed to stir up questions of whether putting the account in just anyone’s hands is a good idea. During his first days, as he tweeted things like:

via www.curatorsofsweden.com/archive/

Anna Dahlström, a blogger and Swedish woman living abroad, opined that turning the account over to regular citizens was a disgrace. Other outlets picked up on her view and used it to argue why this project may not work if even a Swede doesn’t like the idea. Since then, however, she has updated her original post stating:

“As I write below I am not opposed to the idea. Just what the first curator tweeted, particularly during his first day. Since then there’s been some brilliant curators and lovely, insightful tweets. However, it doesn’t change the fact that social media does need to be monitored.”

So, what happens when a curator becomes too controversial?

A curator during the month of March, Natashja Blomberg, a self-described feminist, posted personal photos breastfeeding her kids and asked if anyone was offended by it. Using the hashtag #breastfeedingriot, she started a broad discussion, engaging and surprising followers with her candidness. This created a renewed buzz around @Sweden with followers, bloggers, and journalists asking if she could be starting a worldwide movement, or if this was taking the account too far.

Project Manager with Sweden.se, Inger Ridderstolpe, told thelocal.com:

“We are happy with Natashja as @sweden. She’s representing herself, she’s true to her normal Twitter feed, as we ask all curators to be. We want curators that like to debate and that like to have a dialogue with their followers.

Natashja answers all questions she gets and she does it with humour and self-respect. She is not afraid of speaking her mind and she does it! Equality is something Sweden like to promote and we’re happy that she does it in her way”

Likewise, Jessica Sandberg, curator during the first week of May wasn’t about to censor herself.

Despite any controversy, followers have expressed that they enjoy what @Sweden has to say, and continuously look forward to who or what may come next.

In addition to broad public interest, @Sweden has been such a success that the prestigious Swedish Golden Egg awards have recognized the account with a Golden Egg (Guldägg) in Public Relations and a Silver Egg (Silverägg) in Digital. In May 2012, international acclaim came in the form of a Gold Clio award in Public Relations.

This significant recognition rewards the innovative use of using social media. Reaching 120+ countries, gaining followers at an incredible pace, and opening up discussion on topics ranging from immigration, homosexuality, gender equality, religion, and more, there is a reason the world keeps coming back for more.

Rotation Curation

Curated accounts are now trending on Twitter and other countries have been quick to follow suit. Dubbed first as “location curation” (#locationcuration, originally from @kirkstallonline), within one month of @Sweden becoming a curated account, the people of Leeds (UK), Australia, USA, Mexico, and Basque people abroad had each started unofficial accounts.

Throughout 2012, 30 accounts (and counting) have been created to represent not only more locations, but also groups like LGBTQ, Fairfax, VA commuters, and the UK Financial Times. The movement is now largely being called “rotation curation” (#rotationcuration, coined by @newzealand founder, @auldzealand), as it is no longer only a location specific movement.

Nelson Bonner, creator of @TweetWeekUSA, has taken a lead in the rotation curation movement, creating the site www.rotationcuration.com to organize the accounts for greater reference. It’s unclear how long @Sweden will stay in the people’s hands, but if the increase in curated accounts is any indication, they won’t be going away soon.

Infographic by Katie Haverluk

Twitter: the ideal site

Curated accounts work so well with Twitter because of the inherent nature of the site’s simple design. Short quips about life are shared throughout the day, there is no need to remember to check in an account because tweets show up on the constantly updating home page, and the ability to easily mention someone facilitates open communication and fosters dialogue.

Answering the question “Why do you think #rotationcuration accounts work so well on Twitter” @TheCatCantina tweeted, “…people hear so much negativity on the news & want to know how the people in these countries really live…” Recent @TweetWeekUSA curator, Sue Palmer (@suepalmer21) tweeted, “It’s a consortium of like minded ppl willing to share themselves & their world for the benefit of others.”

Responses why Twitter works well for Rotation Curation

According to a previous Red Lens survey, over 93% of readers think that @Sweden has something going for them. How do you feel about the Rotation Curation movement today? Do you think curated accounts could work on any other social media site?

Photo: Katie Haverluk

Leave a comment or tweet me @khaverluk22 to respond.

Race for Hope in Washington D.C. to Support Brain Tumor Research

On Sunday, May 6th, 2012 the 15th Anniversary Race for Hope will take place in Washington D.C. The 5k run/walk, presented by Cassidy Turley, is being held in Freedom Plaza with events beginning at 8:30am. This well-established event has raised funds for brain tumor research, with donations culminating in over $15 million dollars since 1998, supporting the  National Brain Tumor Society and the Accelerate Brain Cancer Cure.

Brain Cancer Infographic

Brain Cancer Statistics

Deb Morton, who lost her husband to brain cancer just over one year ago, has established “Team MOMO” on behalf of her John Morton and has raised over $1,600 so far. With one week before the event, a total of $1,728,984.72 has been donated by participants and those that support brain tumor and brain cancer research.

Those interested in being a part of “one of the largest fundraisers in the country” and supporting a great cause by either racing, donating, or volunteering can do so on the Race for Hope website. Those wishing to take part in the 5k will also be able to register the morning of May 6th, for $50.

YouTube video via curebraintumorsRACE

New Belgium Brewing’s Zero Energy Efforts

New Belgium Brewing is a company that leads in many ways. Not only is this a microbrewery that produces arguably some of the best beer in America, but they have also maintained their status as an energy-conscious company since their inception in 1991.

Fort Collins, CO, home of New Belgium Brewing Co., is a community that strives to promote the health and well-being of its citizens. The city has long encouraged residents to use bike or public transportation, and as of 2007, the FortZED project seeks to make Downtown Fort Collins a net Zero Energy District.

Video Footage: 9news.com,

As New Belgium Grows, Company Stays True to Environmental Roots

In 2010, New Belgium had over 800 photovoltaic solar panels installed on their packaging facility, creating enough solar power on a sunny day to provide up to eight hours of power. Past efforts have seen the company subscribe to wind power in 1998 and most recently, the company has invested in a fleet of Nissan Leaf electric vehicles, which produce zero emissions and are used by employees for sales support.

New Belgium Tap Photo: Katie Swanson

In addition to the major efforts of the company to cut energy emissions, they have promoted their customers and community with the “Clips of Faith” shows, as well as provided refillable growlers for beer purchase and promoted healthier ways for employees to commute to work. After one year, workers at the brewery receive a “fat tire” bike, and if they choose to drive, vehicles with better emissions get priority parking.

The efforts put forth by New Belgium Brewing make great strides in helping to promote Fort Collins’ FortZED efforts of making the downtown area a more sustainable business district. Though not initially part of the FortZED program, another famous Fort Collins brewing company, Odell’s, has taken the initiative to reduce their carbon footprint by installing their own solar panels, which contributes greatly to the FortZED effort. These large, local companies are great examples of existing conscientiously in, and for, the Fort Collins community.

Pinterest, Copyright, and Making it Right

Pinterest. You’ve heard of it, right? How could you not? Especially if you are an avid blog reader, you know just how popular the site is with creative bloggers. A social sharing web site, even marketing professionals are excitedly finding ways to use the power of Pinterest.

Screenshot of Pinterest "Print & Poster" dashboard

In case you don’t know, Pinterest is a web site where you “pin” images you like from around the web to remember and share. Those pins go to your and your friends’ dashboards to become part of a curated collection of images, subjects being whatever caught your friends’ eyes at the time. If someone clicks on a pinned image, they are taken directly to the source website. In many cases, the site the pin came from is not the original source. In most cases, people have not asked permission from an image’s owner to distribute their content.

An early "pin" (with attribution) by Katie Haverluk

Because of this detail, and being part of a journalism Masters degree program, I initially felt the need to include the website where I found the image in the comment box – to attribute my source. I eventually realized the pins lead back to their source site (not always the original, remember), so I stopped “attributing” thinking anyone can click and see my source.  Then, along came a pin that read, “Dear Pinterest, Please change your terms or I’m leaving.” Clicking on the pin lead to a blog post from a detail-oriented author worried by the language of Pinterest’s terms of use, which essentially stated that anyone who pins an image is a sole owner or has permission from the sole owner to distribute the work. She also found that Pinterest declared that once an image is pinned, it becomes Cold Brew Labs (Pinterest’s providers) right to copy, distribute, and sell (among other things). So you better be the owner, it sounded like.

Most people producing content on the web aren’t looking to rip off another person’s work, but if they aren’t careful they could end up with a lawsuit on their hands for using copyrighted work. In order to copyrighted work, the original author or artist needs to have paid and registered their material with the Copyright office.  Once they do this, their tangible work is protected from any uncontrolled reproduction and use.

In some ways, it looked like Pinterest was in the business of recklessly allowing the distribution of copyrighted work; however, copyrighting does not protect work from being criticized, commented on, and used in news reporting, teaching, or research. This is considered “fair use”. This means bloggers can use copyrighted material for critically discussing and learning from, as long as the material is properly attributed and doesn’t go beyond reasonable fair use.

When Pinterest responded to the (understandable) worries from users, they determined that:

“Pinterest is a platform for people to share their interests through collections of images, videos, commentary and links they can share with friends. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) provides safe harbors for exactly this type of platform.”

Pinterest has updated their terms of use, created “Pin it!” buttons for people to put on their work to encourage distribution, and offer a code for people who want to block their content from Pinterest.

Like Pinterest sharing buttons, web content owners can obtain a Creative Commons license. This license is recognized worldwide and is a free way for someone to easily give permission, as they see fit, for use and distribution of their attributed work. Many people like this because it allows the Internet’s inherent ability to spread their work while ensuring credit is given at the same time.

Creative Commons license button for blogs

The Internet is a great way to share ideas through word or image, because it’s so easy to do so and people often forget this and end up redistributing original work without permission. Copyrighting ensures that the original author has control over how the distribution and use of their work. Creative Commons licenses seek to use the best in the Internet by freely allowing the spread of work, while reminding people to attribute content appropriately.

Government Regulation and Bloggers’ Freedoms

In 2012, the Internet is an integral part of many American’s daily lives. Whether it’s reading the news, checking bank accounts, catching up with friends, or work related use, people rely on the Internet. It is a cost-effective means of transmitting information and it’s relatively easy for anyone to find their own corner of the Internet for personal expression. For some, this means browsing sites for enjoyment, and for others, like professional bloggers, it means their livelihood.

Being that the Internet is such an open place for anyone to use and distribute information, naturally, there is reason for governments to look into regulating unlawful or harmful content.

The United States government has tried to come up with different ways of “protecting”, or regulating the Internet, primarily from unlawfully distributed copyrighted content, but also from those who use the web for illegal purposes.

U.S. Capitol Photo Credit: Katie Swanson

In early 2012, major Internet companies like Google, Wikipedia, and The Onion lashed out at the proposed Stop the Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect IP Act (PIPA) by conducting a “blackout” of their websites on Jan. 18th. The purpose of SOPA, an act backed by the Motion Picture Association of America, the Recording Industry Association of America, and the Chamber of Commerce, is to allow the government to seek a court order and block websites accused of providing pirated content. As it stands, any website that publishes content that has been copyrighted could be accused of being a “rouge website” and could be served with a removal order. In addition to that, SOPA could require Internet providers to block IP addresses of websites suspected of copyright infringement.

SOPA and PIPA are two acts that are dangerous to the inherent purpose of the Internet, where people and companies have created new business and technology through their own innovation.

Personal blog "Linkoping With Love" with content potentially considered copywrited

What would government regulation of the Internet mean for bloggers? Any content distributed that could be accused of being copyrighted from it’s owner would not only be taken down, but that person could receive a court order against them for breaking the law. Using a company’s logo, singing a popular song, or even having an anonymous comment that includes certain content could result in regulated censorship of that website. The danger of these acts lies in their relatively vague wording, which could result in more damaging results for unassuming internet content authors who mean no harm.

After the Jan. 18th internet-wide push to defeat SOPA, some Senators responded and stopped their support. Since then, Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) and Representative Lamar Smith (R-TX) have again proposed new bills essentially proposing government regulation and monitoring online content and user activity.  Even the United Nations has met recently to discuss international regulation of the Internet,. As Robert McDowell argues, Internet technologies are improving the lives of people everywhere and “top-down” international regulation would hinder the instinctive good it can bring. It’s important for citizens to know of proposed regulation acts by government leaders and how it could affect their freedoms, like expression or speech.

The Case of Dharun Ravi, Tyler Clementi, and the Invasion of Privacy

When Dharun Ravi microblogged on Twitter that he was “broadcasting” his Rutgers University roommate, Tyler Clementi’s personal and private evening, did it fall under the stipulation for invasion of privacy? On one hand, under a public Twitter account, Ravi openly talked about his spying – through his webcam over the program iChat – and on a second attempt, invited his followers to view along. On the other, only those with his iChat name could get access to the spied video.

Tyler Clementi; Image via Wikipedia

If the alleged attempt isn’t widely available to the public, is it still considered an offense? Invasion of privacy is defined in New Jersey as observing a person without their consent, and recording and disclosing their acts without their consent, specifically if those acts are sexual in nature. According to this, it seems as though Ravi did in fact violate Clementi’s privacy.

Additionally, according to New Jersey law, Ravi’s actions also fell under the definition for the publication of private facts: revealing a private matter, in a way that is reasonably offensive, and that the matter was not of legitimate interest to the public.

In a recent article from The New Yorker, author Ian Parker thoroughly investigated and reported a timeline of all contact between the two roommates, even from before the two physically met in the dorms. What started out as seemingly normal curiosity of whom he’d be living with, Ravi crossed the line when curiosity turned into invasive voyeurism. Clementi had also done his own searches on his roommate and read the tweets from Ravi about plans to video his private evenings. Clementi, a young man who struggled with his own social abilities, also struggled with trying to figure out just how offensive Ravi was being and whether he should do something about it. Even after Clementi took the right steps to let an authority figure know about the situation, and hopefully remedy it, he ended up taking his own life by jumping off the George Washington Bridge.

According the 15 counts brought against Dharun Ravi, he is not being held responsible for Clementi’s death; however, he is being held responsible for intruding and publicizing someone else’s private affairs, without their knowledge or consent. In a changing society, where technology makes it possible to find out so much about someone, and easily expose them, people need to remember that what seems innocent may have great consequence. It may not result in the victims personal harm, but it is important to remember that a victim of invasion of privacy does have a right to their privacy. Clementi didn’t have to take his own life for the same charges to have been brought against Ravi.