Twitter suspends account monitoring Elon Musk’s flight paths
A Twitter account monitoring the flight paths of Elon Musk's private jet was suspended on Wednesday.
The account is managed by Jack Sweeney, a Florida college student and aviation enthusiast who previously established similar "bot" accounts that tracked the planes of other celebrities. Other Sweeney-run accounts tracking private jets used by Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg, and other Russian oligarchs remained active on Twitter for hours after the suspension of the @elonjet account.
Later that evening, the account, @ElonJet, confirmed via tweet it was back online after being suspended for "violating Twitter rules". Musk banned the jet-tracking account again an hour later, after placing new limitations on all Twitter users, including the prohibition on disclosing anyone's current location.
Later on Wednesday, Twitter suspended all of them, including Sweeney’s account.
After Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February, the account also began tracking the flight paths of various Russian oligarchs.
The move to suspend the account reinforced concerns about the new Twitter CEO's unilateral control over content decisions on the platform. On November 7, immediately after acquiring Twitter for $44 billion, Musk tweeted: “My commitment to free speech extends even to not banning the account following my plane, even though that is a direct personal safety risk.”
But on Wednesday morning, Sweeney tweeted: “Well, it appears @ElonJet is suspended.”
He also tweeted a screenshot of a Twitter message that read: “After careful review, we determined your account broke the Twitter Rules. Your account is permanently in read-only mode, which means you can’t Tweet, Retweet, or Like content. You won’t be able to create new accounts.”
A ban was imposed on Sweeney's account over the weekend, meaning that its visibility had been deliberately reduced.
“Internal messages obtained by an [n] anonymous Twitter employee explained to me that on ‘2 December 2022 your account @elonjet was visibility limited/restricted to a severe degree internally,’” Sweeney wrote.
He then shared a screenshot that purportedly showed Ella Irwin, vice president of Twitter's trust and safety council, directing her team to apply "strong VF [visibility filtering] to @elonjet immediately".
The trust and safety council was dissolved on Monday. The same day, Sweeney tweeted that it appeared @ElonJet was no longer banned or hidden.
Musk urged Sweeney to remove the @ElonJet account after discovering it earlier this year.
“Can you take this down? It is a security risk,” he wrote to Sweeney, adding: “I don’t love the idea of being shot by a nutcase.”
In February, Sweeney told British newspaper The Guardian: “And he offers me $5,000 to make it harder for people to track him and take down the account, and I make my counter-offer.”
Sweeney replied: “Any chance to up that to $50K? It would be a great support in college and would possibly allow me to get a car, maybe even a [Tesla] Model 3.”
Musk, the owner of Tesla, a maker of electric cars, refused to pay up. As a result, Sweeney was blocked on Twitter.