The Twitter account that tracked Elon Musk’s jet has been suspended

Le nouveau patron de Twitter, Elon Musk, juge la modération excessive sur la plateforme.

Posted Dec 14 2022 at 17:26Updated 15 Dec. 2022 at 15:34

Whoever presents himself as a “free speech absolutist” seems to have his own limits. This Wednesday, the Twitter account @elonjet, which tracked the movements of Elon Musk’s private jet, has been suspended. Did he bother the new owner of the micro-blogging platform?

The owner of the incriminated page, Jack Sweeney, did not receive an explanation justifying this suspension. A screenshot posted on his personal account simply shows that he would not have “respected the rules of Twitter”.

The account was restored a few hours late in the day (US time) allowing its owner to tweet “I’m back! “. But he was finally suspended again in the evening and was still unavailable from Thursday. Jack Sweeney’s personal account also ended up being suspended from the platform.

Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates also stalked

A 19-year-old student at the University of Florida, Jack Sweeney has been spending his free time for several months following the movement of jets belonging to businessmen or celebrities, as reported by the “Wall Street Journal” last February.

Using publicly available latitude, longitude and altitude data from aircraft transponders, he tinkered with an algorithm capable of tracking the movements of machines such as the Gulfstream G650ER, probably belonging to Elon Musk, but also those of the former -boss of Amazon, Jeff Bezos, or that of the founder of Microsoft, Bill Gates.

His Twitter account has grown in popularity over the months, amassing more than half a million subscribers at last count, to the point that the young student took the opportunity to sell dedicated t-shirts and get into advertising. online.

Elon Musk would have already asked him to close the account

This activity did not fail to irritate the first concerned, including Elon Musk, who would have contacted Jack Sweeney in November 2021, if we are to believe the statements of the student (who shared screenshots at the “ WSJ”). The billionaire would have offered him $ 5,000 in exchange for closing the account, which he said represented a “threat to his security”. The young computer scientist would have replied that he would accept for 50,000 dollars and the promise of an internship at Tesla. Offer declined.

Since then, the richest man in the world has taken over the helm of Twitter, for $44 billion, and cleaned it up by laying off a large part of the employees and embarking on a crusade for freedom. expression. Deeming the network too corseted, he said he wanted to restore it to its role as a “digital public square”, where all speakers – and all speeches – have the right of citizenship.

It is always in this perspective of rehabilitation that the businessman orchestrated this week the dissemination of certain internal documents to Twitter, which he named “Twitter Files”. In particular, he wanted to reveal the practice of the “shadow ban” (SB), a form of phantom banishment of certain accounts, which then undergo filtering without their knowledge, greatly limiting the popularity of their tweets.

Ironically, it is precisely this practice that Jack Sweeney said a few days ago having been a victim, before seeing his account completely suspended. The student claimed to have been alerted by an anonymous Twitter employee that his account had been “restricted” since December 2.

He then posted a screenshot of an alleged message from Twitter’s internal Slack showing a company official, Ella Irwin, asking her team “to immediately apply an SB [shadow ban] important in this respect”. Contacted by several American media, neither Elon Musk nor Jack Sweeney have yet responded to requests for comment.