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December 14, 2022
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Twitter suspends account that monitored Elon Musk’s jet

Twitter suspended the account run by a college student that tracked the whereabouts of Elon Musk’s private jet, despite the chief executive of the social media platform previously saying he wouldn’t suspend the account.

For a few hours Wednesday afternoon, Twitter restored the account, saying it had adopted new rules to prevent accounts from tracking anyone in real time. But then, without explanation, Twitter again suspended the account that goes by @ElonJet.

The saga took another turn Wednesday afternoon when the company also suspended the personal Twitter account of the student, according to the user’s profile.

Neither Twitter nor the owner of the @ElonJet account, Jack Sweeney, immediately responded to requests for comment.

Musk commented in a tweet on Wednesday afternoon that the @Elonjet account made it easier for people to stalk his family.

“Real-time posting of someone else’s location violates doxxing policy, but delayed posting of locations are ok,” Musk wrote in his tweet. He said Twitter would update its rules to reflect this new policy but did not elaborate on how that would look.

An official Twitter Safety account said that its updated policy was meant to address “an increased risk of physical harm” from sharing an individual’s location.

“Moving forward, we’ll remove Tweets that share this information, and accounts dedicated to sharing someone else’s live location will be suspended,” Twitter said.

Users can still share their own live location on Twitter, and accounts dedicated to sharing historical or not same-day locations are also allowed under the new policy, according to the social media company.

Sweeney, a student at the University of Central Florida in Orlando, tweeted Wednesday morning from his personal account, “well it appears @ElonJet is suspended.” Sweeney also shared a screenshot of a notice saying the ban was permanent.

The account was closed down, reactivated and then suspended again, despite Musk’s comments in a tweet last month that he would not interfere with it because of his stance against censorship.

“My commitment to free speech extends even to not banning the account following my plane, even though that is a direct personal safety risk,” Musk said in the Nov. 6 tweet. A note below the tweet offered readers context that the @ElonJet account “is currently banned,” and that it tracked the jet using publicly available data.

Twitter went beyond closing the @Elonjet account Wednesday afternoon by suspending Sweeney’s personal account, @JxckSweeney. A similar note said it violated Twitter’s rules.

According to a tweet posted Wednesday by a New York Times reporter, Sweeney said that he had a total of about 30 accounts canceled, and that his own personal account was suspended, according to Twitter, because he violated the platform’s rules against “platform manipulation and spam.”

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal published Wednesday, Sweeney said it was unclear to him why the account was banned and that he was caught by surprise because of Musk’s previous comments embracing free speech. Sweeney called it “bad publicity for Musk,” and said people “are going to say [Musk is] a hypocrite.”

“It just shows they can play the rules how they want,” Sweeney told the Journal.

On Sunday, Sweeney tweeted on his personal account that an anonymous Twitter employee informed him that Twitter was limiting his account’s visibility. But by Monday, Sweeney tweeted that the restrictions appeared to have been lifted.

Sweeney told the New York Times in February that he created an algorithm and a bot using publicly available data from Musk’s plane’s transponders, which includes the aircraft’s altitude, latitude and longitude, and that he had been tracking Musk’s jet since June 2020.

Sweeney also told the newspaper that Musk sent him a private message in November 2021 asking him to deactivate the account for security reasons, even offering him $5,000 to do so. Sweeney said he made a counteroffer to up the price to $50,000 or a Tesla, then later asked for an internship instead. The conversation eventually went dark Jan. 23, he said.

Sweeney — who has also used public data to track the movements of musician Drake, entrepreneur Mark Cuban, Amazon Chairman Jeff Bezos and Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates — tweeted Wednesday morning that he would continue keeping tabs on Musk’s travels on other platforms, including Instagram, Facebook and Mastodon.

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