Twitter on Wednesday permanently suspended Elon Musk’s personal jet location-tracking account, despite the social media giant’s owner pledging last month that he would give up the account as part of his “commitment to free speech.”
The @ElonJet accountThe company, which had amassed more than 500,000 followers, was removed for posting a post New decrees Jet-tracking seemed designed to justify the removal of the account. The move comes after Musk reinstated previous Twitter rule violations and stopped enforcing the site’s policies prohibiting Covid-19 misinformation.
The @ElonJet account, run by Jake Sweeney, a 20-year-old Florida college student, used publicly available flight tracking information to create a Twitter bot that would tweet every time Musk’s Gulf flight took off and landed at the airport. The last post on the account before the suspension was on Monday, 48 minutes after Musk’s jet took off from Oakland, California and landed in Los Angeles.
Sweeney woke up Wednesday morning to a message from Twitter that @ElonJet had been permanently suspended. Later in the day his personal account and other jet-tracking accounts he operated were also closed by the company.
This account has long been a thorn in Musk’s mind. According to screenshots shared by Sweeney with CNN, Musk contacted him via a private Twitter message last December and asked, “Can you remove this? It’s a security risk.”
Sweeney, a student at the University of Central Florida, recalled his surprise at the news in an interview with CNN on Wednesday.
“I was about to go to sleep, and I was in a normal college dorm, and I remember telling my roommate, ‘Hey, Elon Musk sent me a direct message.’
The millionaire paid Sweeney $5,000 to close the account. Sweeney resisted the offer, raising it to $50,000 and writing, “It will be a great support in college and will allow me to get a car. [Tesla] Model 3.” After some back-and-forth, Musk responded, “It’s not OK to pay to shut it down.”
Sweeney said he originally set up @ElonJet because he was a Musk fan. “It gives you another perspective where a lot of people don’t know [Musk] Going and new business can give you clues as to what’s going on,” he said.
The concerned student believes he was informed on Saturday that his account was being targeted by the social media company’s management.
Sweeney said he received an email from an anonymous person claiming to be a Twitter employee that included a screenshot of an internal company message from Twitter’s new head of trust and safety, Ella Irwin, asking employees to “immediately send Apple Heavy VF to @elonjet.”
In Twitter parlance, “VF” stands for “Visibility Filtering,” which blocks access to specific accounts.
CNN attempted to reach Irwin and Twitter for comment.
Restrictions on location sharing were not part of Twitter’s existing policies until this week.
Data from the Internet Archive shows the company updated its “Privacy and Media Policy” to include a provision prohibiting the sharing of live location data, saying “we will remove tweets or accounts that share someone’s live location.”
Musk Further He justified the new policy. “Any account that is taxing someone’s real-time location information will be suspended as it is a breach of physical security. This includes posting links to sites with real-time location information. “Posting one’s travel destinations on a slightly delayed basis is not a security issue, so that’s fine,” he wrote.
Asked if he planned to comply with the new policy, Sweeney told CNN he would delay releasing the location of Musk’s jet by 24 hours, “but only on Twitter.”