Twitter has suspended the ElonJet bot account that was tracking the takeoffs and landings of Elon Musk’s private jet using publicly available data.
Created by 20-year-old University of Central Florida student Jack Sweeney, the Twitter bot used to tweet every time the billionaire’s 2015 Gulfstream G650ER business jet (callsign N628TS) took off and landed. The tracker used public data from Automatic Dependent Surveillance–Broadcast (ADS-B) transponders.
Elon Musk said several times in the past that the tracker was a security risk for him, and even offered Sweeney $5,000 earlier this year to stop tracking his jet; the student refused.
In the meantime, Elon Musk purchased Twitter in a $44 billion deal in late October, declaring that freedom of speech was the social media platform’s new policy. Last month, Twitter’s new CEO said his commitment to free speech was so strong that he wouldn’t ban the ElonJet account even though he considered it a “direct personal safety risk.”
So what happened in the meantime? Well, Elon Musk claims that a “crazy stalker” followed the car that carried his son in Los Angeles yesterday thinking the billionaire was inside. “Last night, car carrying lil X in LA was followed by crazy stalker (thinking it was me), who later blocked car from moving & climbed onto hood,” Musk tweeted.
He also shared a video of a Hyundai Kona Electric driver with a balaclava on his face, asking his followers if they recognized the man or the car. The billionaire did not say whether that was the alleged stalker.
Musk did not explain if there was a connection between the incident and the flight tracker bot either, but he announced he is taking “legal action” against the holder of the ElonJet account, which has more than 500,000 followers. The BBC contacted Sweeney, who denied the incident was related to his account.
“Legal action is being taken against Sweeney & organizations who supported harm to my family,” Musk tweeted. It’s unclear how Musk could win the case given that the tracker uses publicly available data.
In an earlier tweet, the Twitter CEO said that any account revealing real-time location information will be suspended “as it is a physical safety violation,” including posting links to sites with real-time location info. This probably explains why Jack Sweeney’s personal Twitter account has also been frozen.
Sweeney is in charge of dozens of other accounts that track the private flights of wealthy Americans, including Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos and Mark Zuckerberg. Many of the accounts, including several tracking aircrafts associated with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Russian oligarchs and celebrities appear to be suspended as well.