RIP @ElonJet…at least for now.
Twitter has suspended the popular bot account @ElonJet, which tracked the movement of Elon Musk’s private jet. The account was created by Jack Sweeney, a freshman at the University of Central Florida.
The @ElonJet account would simply share data that’s made publicly available by the Federal Aviation Administration. Sweeney runs automated Twitter accounts that track the whereabouts of various celebrities and CEOs, such as Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos. Those accounts have not been suspended by Twitter.
Elon Musk has voiced his disdain for the @ElonJet account for a while. Back in January, well before he even signaled he was interested in acquiring Twitter, Musk reached out to Sweeney in hopes of getting the account removed. Musk offered the college freshman US$5,000 to take down the account. Sweeney declined but came back with a counter offer of US$50,000 or a new Tesla. According to Sweeney, Musk said he’d consider it but never responded again after that.
Then in October, Musk acquired Twitter.
“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 tweeted on Nov. 6.
It seemed like that could’ve possibly been the case, at least for a little while. Then, on Dec. 10, Sweeney posted a message he said he received from an anonymous Twitter employee.
“On “Dec 2 2022 your account @elonjet was visibility limited/restricted to a severe degree internally,” Sweeney quoted the Twitter employee as saying.
Sweeney then included a screenshot of an internet Twitter message from its new VP at Twitter Trust and Safety, Ella Irwin, requesting that the team “please apply heavy VF to @elonjet immediately”
After posting these leaked messages, Sweeney shared that the restrictions on his account seemed to be removed, citing a public Twitter tool that checks for various levels of shadowbanning and account filtering.
By Wednesday morning, however, @ElonJet was suspended.
It’s unclear why @ElonJet was suspended. Sweeney confirmed the account’s suspension and posted a screenshot of the “permanent suspension” prompt he sees on the account.
Mashable would reach out to Twitter for comment, but the company no longer has a comms team since Musk laid off seemingly everyone in the department.
Elon Musk has voiced his support for “free speech” as the reason he acquired Twitter, and said he would moderate the website with those principles in mind. It’s a bit hard to claim that, and also suspend an account that shared data made publicly available by a government agency.