Elon Musk has never been fond of @ElonJet, the automated Twitter account that posts updates about the whereabouts of his private jet. But even one month ago, after taking over Twitter in a $44 billion leveraged buyout, he vowed not to vindictively remove the account.
“My commitment to free speech extends even to not banning the account following my plane, even though that is a direct personal safety risk,” Musk tweeted on Nov. 6.
But on Wednesday, Dec. 14, @ElonJet was suddenly—and seemingly without explanation—suspended from Twitter.
The account’s owner, Jack Sweeney, confirmed the news on his personal account, which Twitter banned hours later under a brand-new policy outlawing tweeting people’s real-time location information. Before his personal account was banned, Sweeney posted a screenshot of the notice he received that @ElonJet was suspended for breaking Twitter’s rules.
Twitter, which recently laid off its entire communications department, did not respond to a request for comment about why the account was suspended.
Musk tried to pay $5,000 to get @ElonJet removed
Sweeney, a 20-year-old college student at the University of Central Florida, started the @elonjet account in June 2020. The account, which is automated, pulls publicly accessible transponder data about Elon Musk’s private jet, a Gulfstream G650ER, and tweets information about its departures, arrivals, and mid-flight geolocation.
In November 2021, Musk sent Sweeney a direct message on Twitter asking him to remove the account for personal security reasons, according to the New York Times.
“I go like, Oh my gosh, Elon Musk just DM’d me: ‘Can you take this down? It’s a security risk,’” Sweeney told the Times. “Then he offered me $5,000 to take it down and help him make it slightly harder for ‘crazy people to track me.’”
Sweeney asked for $50,000 and Musk said he would think about it. Musk never paid Sweeney and Sweeney never took down the account.
Twitter allegedly put limits on @ElonJet in recent days
On Dec. 10, Sweeney tweeted internal Twitter communications about @ElonJet that appear to show Ella Irwin, the current trust and safety lead at Twitter, ordering her team to apply “heavy vf” to @ElonJet. VF is short for visibility filtering, a way for Twitter to algorithmically reduce how often other users see the account’s tweets. Quartz has not independently verified the veracity of these messages.
Sweeney tweeted an update on Dec. 12 that appeared to show the visibility filtering was removed.
Now, two days later, the account is suspended for breaking unspecified rules. Musk, who has spent much of this year complaining about unfair censorship, has not yet publicly commented on the account’s suspension.
This article has been updated to reflect that Jack Sweeney’s personal account was also suspended.