Swedish Newspaper Works with Far-Left Group to 'Out' Right-Wing Commenters
Journalists from one of Sweden's biggest newspapers have used information fed to them by a far-left group to identify the email addresses and names of anonymous right-wing online commenters in a disturbing public "outing."
People who were found to have made comments which the Swedish political class call "far right" were confronted by journalists from Expressen at their homes and workplaces, sometimes with television cameras rolling, and questioned about their opinions.
This form of "Spanish inquisition" of personal opinions was defended to Breitbart by Thomas Mattsson, editor of Expressen: "All the people who had written the comments, such as questioning the Holocaust, were given the opportunity to answer to our questions about this before we published."
Reporters were dispatched across Sweden "to track down those who used hate sites."
According to an article in the Swedish news website The Local, and forwarded to Breitbart News by Mattsson, the identification of the commenters was made by the Researchgruppen, an organisation with links to the far left, which traced 6,200 accounts through the forum platform Disqus.
The Researchgruppen forced a leading member of the Sweden Democrats, an anti-immigration, anti-EU party which is showing five percent support in the latest Eurowatch opinion poll for the European Parliament elections later this month, to resign last December after allegedly "insulting and xenophobic" online messages were traced to her.
Ten other members of the party were forced to resign as well.
According to The Local: "Researchgruppen is widely reported to have links to far-left organisations, including AFA – an organisation which advocates violence to achieve its political goals."
Thomas Mattsson, editor of Expressen, insists his newspaper’s exposés are not about "individuals who wish to be anonymous in immigration debates, but those who are diligently spreading xenophobia."
"Expressen didn't break any laws, nor did our staff in any way act improperly."
However, an examination of the comments which the newspaper insists are criminal "hets mot folkgrupp" (hate speech) show them to be what most English lawyers would call "vulgar abuse" and most British people would recognise as pub bravado.
For example, a Sweden Democrat official was forced to resign when commenting on teenage asylum seekers who were on hunger strike: "I hope they starve." Another was forced to resign after calling for a relaxation of weapons legislation so "ethnic Swedes" could arm themselves. Another called immigrants "parasites."
Mattson defended his journalists' behaviour: "There has been no 'intimidating.' What was done was that a number of people who mass-distributed racism was interviewed by journalists, by phone or in person. This is what we do every day, there was nothing special in that sense."
He presented the Swedish mainstream media as being the source of truth which must combat unregulated online sites: "The hate sites focus on immigration and run stories which are so-to-say 50 per cent true, but they very often to not give the readers the full truth."
"By that, they are contrasting established news media and claim to be telling the 'truth.' And by doing so, they create a gap in knowledge in the society given that people who visits the hate sites might think that they offer a different perspective and they are also led to believe that general newspapers, TV and radio don´t want to tell what is really going on…less educated and not so informed people must be given the opportunity to find real information," by which he meant newspapers such as Expressen.
Markus Uvell, president of the Swedish free market libertarian think-tank Timbro said:
"The exposure of the identities of the people expressing racist ideas was another milestone in Swedish media's intrusion of privacy. The ideas expressed were indeed horrible, but even people with horrible ideas have the right to privacy online. Some of the comments are probably illegal under the Swedish hate speech act, others not. Regardless, this does not justify a intrusion of privacy by a tabloid."