Twitter on Wednesday suspended an account that used publicly available flight data to track Elon Musk’s private jet, although the social media platform’s new owner has pledged to maintain it because principles of free speech.
Then, hours later, Musk reinstated the jet-tracking account after imposing new conditions on all Twitter users – not sharing anyone’s current location anymore.
Tweets from the highly-followed @elonjet account were out of view for much of Wednesday. This account had more than 526,000 followers a day earlier.
“He says this is free speech and he is doing the opposite,” said Jack Sweeney, a 20-year-old college sophomore and programmer who started a flight-tracking account.
Sweeney said he woke up on Wednesday to a flood of messages from people who saw that @elonjet had been suspended and all of its tweets were gone. Starting in 2020 when Sweeney was a teenager, the account automatically posted Gulf jet flights with maps and estimates of jet fuel and carbon emissions the planes used flight.
He logged into Twitter and saw a message that the account had been permanently suspended for violating Twitter’s rules. But the note doesn’t explain how it breaks the rules.
Sweeney said he immediately applied online to appeal the suspension. Later, his personal account was also suspended, with a notice saying it violated Twitter’s rules “against platform manipulation and spam”.
And then a few hours later, the flight tracking account was active again. Sweeney said his appeal appears to have been successful. Musk and Twitter’s policy team then sought to explain publicly that Twitter now has new rules in place.
“Any account that doxx anyone’s real-time location information will be suspended, as it is a violation of physical safety,” Musk wrote on Twitter. “This includes posting links to websites with real-time location information. It’s not safe to post places someone has been to on a slightly delayed basis, so that’s okay.”
“Doxxing” generally refers to the public disclosure of someone’s identity, address, or other personal details.
For Sweeney, it was the latest in a long relationship with the billionaire. The University of Central Florida student said Musk sent him a private message last year offering him $5,000 to take down his jet-tracking account, citing security concerns. Musk later stopped communicating with Sweeney, who never deleted the account. Their exchange was first reported by technology news store Protocol earlier this year.
But after buying Twitter for $44 billion in late October, Musk said he would let it stay.
“My commitment to freedom of expression even extends to not banning my aircraft tracking account, even though that is a direct risk to personal safety.” Musk tweeted on November 6th.
Sweeney runs similar “bot” accounts that follow other celebrities’ planes. In the hours after the @elonjet account was suspended, other accounts run by Sweeney tracking private jets used by Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg and many other Russian tycoons persisted on the internet. Twitter.
But by the following Wednesday, Twitter had suspended all of them, including Sweeney’s personal account. He also runs Musk’s plane tracking accounts on rival social platforms like Facebook and Instagram.
Twitter did not respond to a request for comment. Musk has promised to remove auto-generated spam from the platform, but Twitter allows automated accounts to be labeled as such – like Sweeney’s.
Its note to Sweeney about the suspension, which he shared with the AP, said “You must not use Twitter’s services in a manner intended to artificially amplify or suppress disinformation or solicitation. engage in behavior that manipulates or disrupts people’s experience on Twitter.” But that rationale differs from what Musk explained later on Wednesday.
Sweeney a few days earlier accused Musk’s Twitter of using filtering to hide his tweets and revealed what he said was leaked internal communications showing an internal executive. Twitter content in charge Safety and Reliability Department ordered her team to block the account’s reach. AP was unable to independently verify those documents.
Sweeney says he suspects the short-lived ban stems from anger over those leaks.
Musk has previously criticized that filtering technique – nicknamed “shadowbanning” – and alleged that it was unfairly used by previous Twitter leadership to block right-wing accounts. He has said that the new Twitter will still downgrade the reach of negative or hateful messages but will be more transparent about that.
In an effort to relax Twitter’s content restrictions, he’s reinstated other popular accounts that were permanently banned for violating Twitter’s rules on hateful conduct, harmful misinformation, and more. or incite violence.
In the weeks since the Tesla CEO took over Twitter, the @elonjet account has documented Musk’s many cross-country journeys from his home base near Tesla’s headquarters in Austin, Texas, to various places. . california airport for his work at Twitter’s San Francisco headquarters and his rocket company SpaceX.
It shows Musk flying to East Coast cities ahead of major events and arriving in New Orleans shortly before his December 3 meeting there with French President Emmanuel Macron.
In a January post pinned to the top of the jet-tracking account’s feed before it was suspended, Sweeney wrote that the account “has every right to post the jet’s location ” because the data is public and “every aircraft in the world should have a transponder,” including Air Force One carrying the president of the United States.
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