The owner of a Twitter account that has been in use for the past two years tracking Billionaire Elon Musk’s airport says his account will be “shadow banned”. That accusation comes despite recent public assurances from Musk that he took no action against the account.
The account’s owner, named Jack Sweeney, claims that an anonymous Twitter employee told him that his account was popular ElonJet Tracker bot was given limited visibility, “to a severe degree”, as of December 2nd. Sweeney then went on to post a screenshot, which allegedly shows Twitter’s vice president of trust and safety Ella Irwin asking team members to “use heavy VF [visibility filtering] to @elonjet immediately.” Sweeney revealed the information in a Twitter thread he called “MyTwitter Files.”
Sweeney, a freshman at the University of Central Florida in Orlando, says he uses publicly available transponder data from Musk’s private plane to track its location. This data, which includes the aircraft’s altitude, latitude, longitude and heading, is then fed into a the algorithm he created. The @ElonJet bot then takes that information and tweets out when Musk takes off and lands.
Although similar trackers exist for other major figures such as Mark Zuckerberg, Drake and Jeff Bezos, ElonJet stands out because it has managed to arouse the enduring ire of its target. Back in January, Sweeney said New York Times Musk personally contacted him over DMs asking him to remove the fine in exchange for $5,000. The Sweeney teller offered, saying he would consider deactivating the account for $50,000 or even an internship at one of Musk’s companies. Musk, who has said he believes social media accounts tracking his whereabouts are “security issues” allegedly cut off communication with the teenager.
Months later, Musk officially announced his intention to acquire Twitter, which has many wondering if the billionaire would move to ban Sweeney’s bot account. At that time, Sweeney so he made backup plans to keep the bot active on other platforms, “just in case [Twitter] account will disappear.”
Given Musk’s inconsistent statements in favor of freedom of expression and repeated criticism of Twitter’s previous content moderation philosophy, it was unclear whether he would take action against the account once he officially owned the platform. Musk addressed the issue in early November, saying he wanted to ban the @ElonJet account on free speech grounds.
“My commitment to free speech even extends to not banning the account after my flight, even if there is a direct personal security risk,” Musk said in the tweet.
Sweeney responded to the tweet, thanking Musk for the decision and saying that the majority of his account followers were indeed supporters of Musk and his companies.
Gizmodo reached out to Twitter for comment on Sweeney’s claims, but have not heard back. Twitter’s communications team allegedly underwent major cuts as part of the company’s 3,700 personal layoffs.
Sweeney’s claims as Musk continue to publish the so-called “Twitter files” which, among other things, has published internal documents that show Twitter’s approach to limiting a certain account’s visibility.