Who is Veronika? Online mystery vexes Swedes

An exposé about a mysterious online personality who refers to herself as "TheIneffableSwede" captivated Swedish media this week and left the country wondering just who exactly is Veronika Larsson, making her our pick for Swede of the Week.

Who is Veronika? Online mystery vexes Swedes
The online mystery that has Swedes asking: Who is Veronika

The front cover of Wednesday’s Metro newspaper had a full-page spread with four pictures of a blonde woman and the words “Who is Veronika?” plastered across the middle.

The question, and the subsequent story, kept Swedes busy chatting around water coolers all day. The original article has since been translated into English and shared on Facebook over 3,000 times.

“Many love the story and the suspense in it, which delights me more than you can understand,” Jack Werner, the journalist behind the piece, told The Local.

“Others think it’s not news at all, which I totally understand. This goes very well with my own personal slogan: ‘Nothing has happened but it’s a good story’.”

The article delves into the tracking of an online commenter and blogger who sometimes employs the alias “TheIneffableSwede”. The chase began when Werner was trying to find the author of a comment in The Guardian newspaper who accused the CEO of a prominent computer gaming company of ignoring complaints of sexism, a paragraph which was later turned into an article by the UK paper.

Unable to track down the commenter for an interview, Werner dug into her (or his) colourful past, through her thousands of online comments on various newspapers (including The Local), her blogs, videos, and stories that had accumulated over the six years.

Upon deeper inspection, however, Werner found that the character could be traced back to a person by the name of Veronika Larsson – a young Swede who spoke five languages, had lived in 11 countries, and was educated in Sweden, California and London.

But it all sounded too good to be true for the sleuth-solving Swedish journalist.

And it was. Veronika didn’t exist. Her pictures traced back to Tiffany Olson, a 26-year-old woman who lives in the United States and who had nothing at all to do with “Veronika” or “The Ineffable Swede”.

“It’s so bizarre, I don’t even know what to think about it,” she told the Swedish journalist when he told her she’d been serving as the online face of TheIneffableSwede.

Werner’s article, a sprawling 4,000 word chase through Veronika’s history, and including an unusual conversation with the woman whose identity was stolen, has raised questions among Swedes about the true identity of Veronika. And further, about the staggering level of unknown on the internet.

In addition to spawning a flurry of activity on social media, the story also prompted the Aftonbladet tabloid to write about the mystery of Veronika, as well as media trade publications.

For journalist Werner, the story’s connection to the internet is among its most fascinating aspects.

“The web plays a tremendously important role in our society, but since it’s in a way still a novelty we’re not all accustomed to it yet,” he said.

“I’m often comparing it to the microwave: 20 years after introducing it to the general public (there are) urban legends about how it would cook your intestines if you stood beside it. In the same way we’re telling stories about the strangeness and curiosities of the web today, something I’m actually writing a book about right now.”

As to whether there will be any kind of follow up to the viral article in Metro, Werner remains unsure.

“I will try to (write a follow-up), even though I don’t really know if I want to,” he told The Local.

“In some way I think the story is at it’s absolute best right here, right now. As a huge mystery.”

Editor’s Note: The Local’s Swede of the Week is someone in the news who – for good or ill – has revealed something interesting about the country. Being selected as Swede of the Week is not necessarily an endorsement.

SEE ALSO: A list of The Local’s past Swedes of the Week

Oliver Gee

Follow Oliver on Twitter here

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Social Democrats call for Malmö underground system

Malmö’s Social Democrats have backed plans to build an underground railway in the city which could then be connected to Copenhagen through a tunnel under the Öresund straits.

Social Democrats call for Malmö underground system
The Copenhagen Metro in Örestad, near to the Öresund Straits. Photo: Johan Nilsson / TT / Kod
Malmö mayor Katrin Stjernfeldt Jammeh wants the city to begin drawing up plans for an underground railway with at least five stops: Malmö Central, Södervärn, Värnhem, Västra Hamnen and Nyhamnen. 
“We need to plan for a traffic system where we take into account being a city of half a million people,” she told the local Sydsvenskan newspaper. 
“And the traffic system needs to be able to handle more than just those who live in Malmö because we represent 50 percent of the growth in new jobs in Skåne and in addition are experiencing growing tourism.” 
Stjernfeldt Jammeh said that if her party manages to hold onto power after Sunday’s election, she aimed to push forward with the plans even before an investment decision over the Öresund Metro link. 
“There is a good reason in going underground, because we need to be economical with space on the surface,” she said. 
Sweden’s Liberal Party was the first to suggest building an underground in Malmö, with the Social Democrats instead pushing for a tram network until the plan was voted down by the centre-Right Alliance in Skåne’s regional government.