11 July 2024

(AFP) – A Twitter account that tracked flights of Elon Musk’s private jet was grounded on Wednesday despite the billionaire’s talk of free speech.

“Well it appears @ElonJet is suspended,” creator Jack Sweeney tweeted from his personal @JxckSweeney account.

The account was in action briefly later in the day, after Twitter sent out word that it updated its policy to prohibit tweets, in most cases, from giving away someone’s location in real time.

“Yes I am back!” read a tweet fired off  by @ElonJet, which added a link to versions of the flight tracking account at other social networks such as Instagram, Facebook and Mastodon “just in case.”

A short time later attempts to reach @ElonJet, as well as Sweeney’s personal Twitter account, were met with messages that both were suspended.

Musk’s jet “flew from LA to Austin last night after my account was suspended on Twitter,” he said in an Instagram post.

“Any account doxxing real-time location info of anyone will be suspended, as it is a physical safety violation,” Musk said in a tweet.

“This includes posting links to sites with real-time location info.”

Doxxing refers to revealing identifying information such as home address or phone number online, typically to target someone for abuse.

Tweets sharing a person’s location that are “not same-day” are allowed under the tweaked policy, as are posts about being at a public event such as a concert, Twitter said.

Sweeney attracted attention with his Twitter account that tracks the movements of the billionaire’s plane and even rejected Musk’s offer of $5,000 to shut down @ElonJet, which had hundreds of thousands of followers.

Musk had gone public saying he would not touch the account after buying Twitter in a $44 billion deal as part of his commitment to free speech at the platform.

Flight-following websites and several Twitter accounts offer real-time views of air traffic, but that exposure draws pushback ranging from complaints to equipment seizures.

US rules require planes in designated areas be equipped with ADS-B technology that broadcasts aircraft positions using signals that relatively simple devices can pick up.

Figuring out or confirming to whom a plane actually belongs can require some sleuthing, said Sweeney, who filed a public records request with the US government in order to confirm Musk’s ownership of his plane.

Suspension of the account came a day after Twitter co-founder and former chief Jack Dorsey published an online post defending the tech firm’s workers, who Musk has criticized for decisions regarding content moderation.

“I’m a strong believer that any content produced by someone for the internet should be permanent until the original author chooses to delete it,” Dorsey wrote.

“It should be always available and addressable. Content takedowns and suspensions should not be possible.”