Pirate Party Sweden Sees Major Member Surge

Pirate Party Sweden Sees Major Member Surge

Swedish hosting company PRQ were raided October 1, causing a shutdown of up to 50 file sharing sites. As a result, the member count of the Swedish Pirate Party increased rapidly, almost doubling in just two weeks.

Though the circumstances of the raid were long clouded in mystery, it has since been revealed that the target was Tankafetast.com, one of the largest Swedish language torrent sites. The site has since been down, but plans to return as soon as possible. While down, they redirected their domain name to the Swedish Pirate Party, first to the Facebook page, and later to a form for becoming a member.

Many websites hosted by PRQ suffered, both file sharing sites as well as personal and entirely legal sites, even though PRQ has made themselves famous for hosting controversial sites such as The Pirate Bay and WikiLeaks.

Largest increase in three years
Increase in membership in the past month. (y axis starting at around 7 500). No copyright.

Increase in PP Sweden membership in the past month (with a y axis starting at around 7 600). No copyright.

The party member increase, from 7 600 on October 1 to over 14 000 on October 12, was the largest increase in over three years. In the spring of 2009, the party quickly increased its member count five-fould as a result of several factors, including the ongoing Pirate Bay trial.

At the same time, followers in social media has increased as well. The Pirate Party’s Facebook page is now the most liked party page in Scandinavia, with almost 80 000 likes. In comparison, Sweden’s largest party, the Social Democrats, has less than 30 000.

“This time the pirates are ready”

In 2009, the party did not manage to keep many of the members, returning to pre-surge levles a year later when many chose not to renew their memberships. This time, according to party leader Anna Troberg, many things are different.

Within a few days, local meet-ups started forming throughout Sweden on a daily basis, where new members could meet and discuss both the recent events and the pirate movement in general.

Troberg soon published a series of blog posts, welcoming the new members and covering what happens next. In a  blog post with the optimistic title “This time the pirates are ready, are the anti-pirates?“, she notices that while in 2009 the party was poor at receiving the members, a lot has changed since. The party has grown, has become better at offline activities, and has become better at talking to its members in the social media.

When Pirate Times seeks her for comment, Troberg says:

It’s wonderful to get so many new members. And this time we are prepared and able to guide them through our organisation and make them active members. I think this will increase our chances to do really well in the upcoming EU and national elections in 2014. I am very greatful to Tankafetast for directing people to us, and to all our old members that are working so hard to make the new members feel welcome.

Increase in youth members and outlook for upcoming elections

The party’s youth organisation Ung Pirat (Young Pirate) has also seen an impressive increase, doubling their numbers from 2 000 to 4 500 in two weeks. The sudden rise in activism has also led to discussion on forming several new local wings, including one in Gothenburg. Ung Pirat receives state support for their member count, leading to a much higher 2013 budget than previously expected.

This in turn leads to a larger campaign for the 2014 elections for both the European and the national parliament – even though the youth organisation has an economy separated from the party, their work in an election campaign clearly influences especially the younger voters.

The member count is a good signal for the possible votes in an election – in 2009, when the party managed 7 % in the elections to the European Union, the party had almost 50 000 members. Still, the member registration is also good for reaching people, informing them of what is going on and what they can do for the movement.

The same goes for the vast increase in followers on Facebook and other social media – while the party has no purely economic gain from these people, it creates a free platform for advertisement, as well as it shows a clear signal that the party ideals are growing in popularity.

Featured image: Swedish pirates rallying against ACTA in February 2012. CC BY-NC Dennis Startrek.