Twitter Suspends Account That Tracked Musk’s Private Jet, Despite Billionaire’s ‘Free Speech’ Pledge

Twitter Suspends Account That Tracked Musk’s Private Jet, Despite Billionaire’s ‘Free Speech’ Pledge

Twitter Suspends Account That Tracked Musk’s Private Jet, Despite Billionaire’s ‘Free Speech’ Pledge


Twitter on Wednesday permanently suspended an account that tracked the location of Elon Musk’s private jet, despite last month the owner of the social media company saying: “My commitment to free speech extends to not banning the account to follow my aircraft, even if it is a direct risk to personal safety”.

The @ElonJet accountwhich had amassed more than 500,000 followers, was removed as the company posted a new set of edicts which appeared to be specifically designed to justify the removal of the jet tracking account. The move comes after Musk reinstated previous Twitter rule-breakers and stopped enforcing the platform’s policies that prohibit Covid-19 misinformation.

The @ElonJet account, run by Jack Sweeney, a 20-year-old Florida college student, used publicly available flight tracking information to create a Twitter bot that tweeted every time Musk’s Gulfstream took off and landed in a airport. The account’s last post before the suspension showed Musk’s jet taking off from Oakland, California on Monday and landing in Los Angeles 48 minutes later.

Sweeney woke up Wednesday morning to a message from Twitter informing him that @ElonJet had been permanently suspended. Later in the day his personal account and other jet tracking accounts he managed were also shut down by the company.

The account had long been a thorn in Musk’s side. According to screenshots Sweeney shared with CNN, Musk reached out to him last December via a private message on Twitter asking, “Can you remove this? It’s a security risk.”

Sweeney, a student at the University of Central Florida, recalled his surprise at receiving the message in an interview with CNN Wednesday.

“I was about to go to sleep, and I was in a regular college dorm and I remember saying to my roommate, ‘Hey, Elon Musk just sent me a direct message.”

The billionaire then offered Sweeney $5,000 to close the account. Sweeney countered the offer, bringing it down to $50,000, writing, “It would be a great college boost and maybe get me a car maybe even a [Tesla] Model 3.” After some back-and-forth, Musk replied, “It doesn’t feel right to me to pay to shut everything down.”

Sweeney said he created @ElonJet initially because he was a fan of Musk. “It just gives you another view that a lot of people don’t know where [Musk] it’s going and it might give you clues about what new business is going on,” he said.

The enterprising student believes he was notified on Saturday that his account had been targeted by the social media company’s management.

Sweeney said he received an email from an anonymous person posing as a Twitter employee that included a screenshot showing an internal company message from Ella Irwin, Twitter’s new head of trust and security, asking to personnel to “immediately apply heavy VF to @elonjet”.

In Twitter parlance, “VF” means “visibility filter” that limits the reach of certain accounts.

CNN attempted to reach out to Irwin and Twitter for comment.

As part of its new policy announced Wednesday, Twitter said it would “prohibit sharing someone else’s live location in most cases.”

“You can still share your location live on Twitter,” he said. “Tweets that share someone else’s historical (non-same-day) location information are also not prohibited by this policy.”

Moss also published his justification for the new policy. “Any account that doxxes anyone’s real-time location information will be suspended, as this is a physical security breach. This includes posting links to sites with real-time location information. Posting places someone has traveled to with a slight delay is not a security concern, so that’s fine,” she wrote.

Location sharing restrictions weren’t part of Twitter’s existing policies until this week.

Data from the Internet Archive shows the company updated its “media privacy and policy” to add a clause prohibiting the sharing of real-time location data, “we will remove any tweets or accounts that share real-time location someone’s real,” it reads.

Asked if he planned to comply with the new policy, Sweeney told CNN that he would begin delaying posting the whereabouts of Musk’s jet for 24 hours, “but only on Twitter.”

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