Twitter permanently banned an account on Wednesday that was tracking the location of Elon Musk’s private jet, even though the social media company’s owner vowed last month: “My commitment to freedom of expression extends even to not banning the account if I follow my plane even though it is a direct personal safety risk”.
That @ElonJet accountwhich had amassed more than 500,000 followers was removed when the company released a new series of edicts this 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 prohibiting 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 would tweet whenever Musk’s Gulfstream took off at an airport and landed. 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 telling him that @ElonJet has been permanently banned. Later in the day, his personal account and other jet-tracking accounts he held 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 via a private Twitter message last December and asked, “Can you tear this down? It’s a security risk.”
Sweeney, a student at the University of Central Florida, recalled his surprise at hearing the news in an interview with CNN on Wednesday.
“I was about to go to bed, 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, bumping it up to $50,000 and writing, “It would be a great support in college and potentially allow me to get a car, maybe even one.” [Tesla] Model 3.” After some back-and-forth, Musk replied, “Doesn’t feel right paying for the shutdown.”
Sweeney said he originally started @ElonJet because he was a Musk fan. “It just gives you a different view that a lot of people don’t know where [Musk] going and could give you clues as to what new deals are going on,” he said.
The enterprising student believes he received a tip on Saturday that his account was under attack from the social media company’s management.
Sweeney said he received an email from an anonymous person pretending to be a Twitter employee that contained a screenshot that included an internal company message from Ella Irwin, Twitter’s new head of trust and safety, and asking employees to “send Apple Heavy VF to @elonjet immediately”.
In Twitter parlance, “VF” means “visibility filtering,” which throttles the reach of certain accounts.
CNN reached out to Irwin and Twitter for comment.
As part of its new policy announced Wednesday, Twitter said it will “prohibit sharing someone’s live location in most cases.”
“You can still share your own live location on Twitter,” it said. “Tweets that share historical location information (not on the same day) of another person are also not prohibited by this policy.”
musk Also published its rationale for the new policy. “Any account doxxing real-time location information of anyone will be suspended as it is a breach of physical security. This includes posting links to websites with real-time location information. Posting places someone has traveled to with a bit of delay isn’t a safety issue, so it’s fine,” he wrote.
The restrictions surrounding location sharing were not part of Twitter’s existing policies until this week.
Data from the Internet Archive shows that the company has 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 containing the live location of share with someone,” it said.
When asked if he plans to comply with the new policy, Sweeney told CNN he will begin postponing the whereabouts of Musk’s jet by 24 hours, “but only on Twitter.”