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Musk bans private-plane-tracking @Elonjet on Twitter, threatens legal action

Say what you want – until Elon decides it affects him, too

Updated Twitter has suspended an account dedicated to tracking Elon Musk's private jet trips using public flight data – a month after the world's second-richest man said his "commitment to free speech" prevented him from doing so. 

The account, @elonjet, was suspended yesterday, along with the personal account of its owner, Jack Sweeney, and several others controlled by Sweeney that tweeted out the private jet flights of multiple rich and famous folks.

Musk is apparently also taking legal action against Sweeney, adding in a tweet that his tune on the jet tracking accounts apparently changed due to an encounter in Los Angeles the day prior.

"Last night, car carrying lil X [referring to his child, X Æ A-12] in LA was followed by crazy stalker (thinking it was me), who later blocked car from moving & climbed onto hood," the SpaceX baron tweeted, adding "legal action is being taken against Sweeney & organizations who supported harm to my family." 

Musk's tweet included a video of the alleged stalker, but it didn't include any of the claimed harassment, only footage of the suspected individual looking surprised behind the wheel of a car.

It's not quite clear what the connection is here other than: the jet tracker lets you know which airport Elon may have just landed or took off from, and someone allegedly followed around his kid in LA.

The Tesla tycoon proclaimed along with that tweet thread that "any account doxxing real-time location info of anyone will be suspended, as it is a physical safety violation. This includes posting links to sites with real-time location info." 

He then clarified that with the curiously worded, "posting locations someone traveled to on a slightly delayed basis isn't a safety problem, so is OK," which would mean news articles and tweets reporting where someone's been are allowed.

Jet jaunts not private

The flight-tracking bots that Sweeney designed make use of the Federal Aviation Administration's Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) system to track planes by tail number.

As the information is freely and publicly available, anyone with the know-how could build a similar bot. Note that to track a particular person, you need to discover the tail number of their plane, and use the FAA data to plot their journeys.

Twitter's official privacy policy didn't forbid the publication of such information, but after Musk's announcement that the Elonjet account was banned, Twitter updated its private information policy to include such public data.

"We've updated our Private Information policy to prohibit sharing someone else's live location in most cases," Twitter's Safety account tweeted. "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 individuals are free to share their own location, and location info of others that isn't same-day can still be posted as well, meaning Sweeney could feasibly be free to rejoin Twitter if he committed to posting information on a delay.

Speaking to Buzzfeed News, Sweeney said he was surprised Musk blocked the accounts after saying last month he would allow it in the name of free speech, though Sweeney also believes he's been a target of Musk's ire since he started tracking his flights. 

Sweeney said he has been given a screenshot of a message allegedly showing Twitter's VP of Trust and Safety, Ella Erwin, asking Twitter employees to apply heavy filtering to the Elonjet account to bury it out of sight – shadowbanning it, effectively. Sweeney claimed the screenshot was sent anonymously from a burner account, and Buzzfeed said it was unable to authenticate the claim. 

Musk had previously tried to stop Sweeney by offering him $5,000 to delete the account, which Sweeney declined. Since he's been banned from Twitter, the 20-year-old said he feels renewed. "I'm going to keep going on forever … I can't let him win now," Sweeney said.

Those who still want to track Elon's jet aren't prohibited from doing so outside of Elon's personal platform, either directly from the FAA or using one of Sweeney's @Elonjet mirror accounts on Mastodon, Instagram, Telegram – or even Truth Social. ®

Updated to add

Twitter is now suspending the accounts of journalists who have reported critically on Musk, including reporters at CNN, the New York Times, and the Washington Post.

According to the Twitter supremo in a tweet, the journos broke the same rule as Sweeney, presumably by tweeting about the ElonJet account and/or linking to its source data and related resources. It's not clear if every one of the now-suspended reporters actually did that.

PS: It's been pointed out that Twitter is banning all links to Sweeney's other pages.

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