On Wednesday, Twitter issued what had appeared to be a permanent ban on @ElonJet, a bot account that used publicly available data to track the locations of Musk’s personal private jet, a Gulfstream G700. That’s despite Musk’s previous claim that he would not shut down the account.
“My commitment to free speech extends even to not banning the account following my plane, even though that is a direct personal safety risk,” the billionaire tweeted Nov. 6, a little over a week after he closed the $44 billion Twitter takeover.
Twitter briefly reinstated the @ElonJet account later in the day — while also issuing a new policy that said accounts dedicated to tracking another person’s live location were verboten — and then banned the account again.
Before it was suspended (for the second time) Wednesday, @ElonJet had more than 540,000 followers. The jet-tracking bot was created by Florida college student Jack Sweeney — whose own personal Twitter account also was suspended Wednesday. Sweeney told Bloomberg News that Twitter had suspended all 30 accounts that he ran, which included those that tracked planes used by Meta’s Mark Zuckerberg, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates.
In a tweet Wednesday Musk wrote, “Real-time posting of someone else’s location violates [Twitter’s] doxxing policy, but delayed posting of locations are ok.”
Later, Musk wrote in a Twitter post that a car in which his 2-year-old son was riding on Tuesday evening in L.A. “was followed by [a] crazy stalker (thinking it was me), who later blocked car from moving & climbed onto hood. Legal action is being taken against Sweeney & organizations who supported harm to my family.” Sweeney’s @ElonJet account was posting already-public information, so it’s unclear what kind of “legal action” Musk had in mind.
Twitter’s Private and Information and Media Policy was updated Wednesday, Dec. 14, to add this: “If your account is dedicated to sharing someone’s live location, your account will be automatically suspended.” In addition, the page outlining the policy now says that content prohibited on the service includes “live location information, including information shared on Twitter directly or links to 3rd-party URL(s) of travel routes, actual physical location, or other identifying information that would reveal a person’s location, regardless if this information is publicly available.”
Last year, Musk had offered to pay Sweeney $5,000 to delete the account, with the tech mogul saying it was a safety risk. On Dec. 10, Sweeney posted tweets indicating that Twitter had “shadow-banned” the @ElonJet account, meaning its visibility was being limited. Two days later, however, Sweeney posted that the account was “longer banned or hidden in anyway. I think Twitter noticed my tweets and back tracked. Guilty in my book.”
Sweeney, prior to his personal account being suspended, tweeted, “Can I have my 8$ back?” (referring the price of the Twitter Blue subscription service, which now provides eligible accounts with blue check-mark status). He also launched a new jet-tracking account on Mastodon (at mastodon.social/@elonjet), an alternate social platform that has become popular among people quitting Twitter.
In a post on Mastodon, Sweeney wrote, “Elon gave me no warning… plus he suspended all of my accounts, half of which track aircraft (NASA aircraft, experimental aircraft, weather, airforce etc). not people.”