On Wednesday, Twitter permanently suspended an account that tracked the location of Elon Musk’s private jet, although the owner of the social media company promised last month: “My commitment to free speech extends even not to ban the account that follows my plane, even if it is a direct link personal security risk.
The @ElonJet accountwhich had amassed over 500,000 subscribers, was taken down as the company posted a new series of edits which seemed to be designed specifically to justify deleting the jet tracking account. The move comes after Musk reinstated former violators of Twitter’s rules and stopped enforcing the platform’s policies prohibiting misinformation about Covid-19.
The @ElonJet account, run by Jack Sweeney, a 20-year-old college student in Florida, used publicly available flight tracking information to create a Twitter bot that tweeted whenever Musk’s Gulfstream took off and landed at an airport. The account’s last post before the suspension showed Musk’s jet taking off from Oakland, Calif., 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 that day, his personal account and other jet-tracking accounts he ran 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 through a private message on Twitter asking, “Can you take this down? It’s a security risk. »
Sweeney, a student at the University of Central Florida, recalled his surprise at receiving the message during an interview with CNN on Wednesday.
“I was about to go to sleep, and I was in a normal college dorm and I remember saying to my roommate, ‘Hey, Elon Musk just DMed me.'”
The billionaire then offered Sweeney $5,000 to close the account. Sweeney countered the offer, raising it to $50,000, writing, “It would be great support for college and maybe get me a car, maybe even a [Tesla] Model 3.” After some back and forth, Musk replied, “I don’t feel good about paying to shut this down.”
Sweeney said he originally created @ElonJet because he was a fan of Musk. “It just gives you another view that a lot of people don’t know where [Musk] will and might give you clues about new business going on,” he said.
The enterprising student believes he was told on Saturday that his account was being targeted by management at the social media company.
Sweeney said he received an email from an anonymous person claiming to be a Twitter employee that included a screenshot showing an internal company message from Ella Irwin, the new head of trust and from Twitter security, asking staff to “immediately put a heavy VF on @elonjet”.
In Twitter parlance, “VF” stands for “visibility filtering” which limits the reach of certain accounts.
CNN attempted to contact Irwin and Twitter for comment.
Under its new policy announced Wednesday, Twitter said it would “prohibit sharing someone else’s live location in most cases.”
“You can always share your own live location on Twitter,” he said. “Tweets that share someone else’s historical (not same day) location information are also not prohibited by this policy.”
Musk too posted his rationale for the new policy. “Any account doxxing anyone’s real-time location information will be suspended, as it is a breach of physical security. This includes posting links to sites containing real-time location information. View places where someone went with a slight delay is not a security concern, so that’s fine,” he wrote.
Restrictions on location sharing were not part of Twitter’s existing policies until this week.
Internet Archive data shows the company updated its “Private Information and Media Policy” to add a clause prohibiting the sharing of live location data, “we will remove any tweets or accounts that share the someone’s live location,” it read.
When asked if he planned to comply with the new policy, Sweeney told CNN he would start delaying posting Musk’s plane location for 24 hours, “but only on Twitter. “.