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Before the 2024 European elections – a political earthquake in Sweden due to the Trollfabrik scandal – news

Before the 2024 European elections – a political earthquake in Sweden due to the Trollfabrik scandal – news

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The revelation of a troll factory run by the Sweden Democrats has caused a political earthquake.

Swedish security authorities have warned of Russian disinformation campaigns in the run-up to the European elections. Research now shows that many anonymous social media accounts are actually spreading false information about political rivals.

But it's not the Russian troll factory behind it, it's the communications department of the Sweden Democrats (SD).

Political earthquake

“Yes, we are a factory for trolls,” said the media spokesman for the right-wing populist Sweden Democrats party, in a new documentary broadcast by the independent Swedish television station TV4. In it, investigative journalists show that the Sweden Democrats maintain at least 23 anonymous accounts on popular social media platforms.

Through these accounts, they post manipulated campaign videos, defame senior politicians, and spread false information on controversial topics such as immigration and climate protection.

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For the leader of the Sweden Democrats, Jimmi Åkesson, the posts are nothing more than harmless gossip.

Reuters/Maja Suslin/Archive

This scandal caused a political earthquake in Sweden, because the Sweden Democrats, who practice politics on the basis of the extreme right, constitute the largest party in the current center-right government camp. Since the elections that took place two years ago, these elections have had a decisive influence on the policies of Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson's bourgeois government.

Nothing more than wardrobe chatter?

Christerson described the secret smear campaign as unacceptable. Kristersson said that offensive and anonymous posts from the kitchen of a political partner had damaged mutual trust, and called on the Sweden Democrats to clarify these cases. Johan Persson, leader of coalition partner Liberal Party, immediately called for a new law banning such false communications by parties. Strong votes in his party also pushed him out of the minority government.

Jimmi Åkesson, leader of the Sweden Democrats, does not like criticism. He describes posts on Swedish radio as “unintentional gossip in a malicious way.”

The difference in communication with other parties lies in the fact that the political actor acts anonymously.

Ola Svenonius, a disinformation expert at the State Defense Academy in Stockholm, does not share this assessment. “The big difference in communication compared to other parties lies in the fact that the political actor acts anonymously. I call this disinformation,” Svenonius explained on a television talk show.

Prime Minister Christerson's chair shakes

For Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson, maintaining the slim right-wing majority in parliament with the Sweden Democrats is a priority. After discussions with other party leaders, he announced his satisfaction with the deletion of some particularly hurtful posts, which Åkesson used to characterize his critics as part of a conspiracy by a left-liberal elite. For his part, he described what TV4 revealed as “massive misinformation.”

A few weeks before the European elections, the Swedish government is in chaos. Christerson's cautious response weakens confidence among the population – because the disinformation campaign did not come from outside the country, as feared, but from the heart of political power.