Twitter has suspended an account that monitors the flight paths of a private jet owned by the social media giant’s new boss, Elon Musk.
On Wednesday morning, the page for the account, @ElonJet, said “Account suspended”, adding: “Twitter suspends accounts that violate the Twitter Rules.”
The account was run by Jack Sweeney, a Florida college student and aviation enthusiast who created a Twitter bot to track the locations of private jets owned by Musk and other prominent figures including the Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos of Amazon and the billionaire entrepreneur Mark Cuban.
After Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February, the account also began tracking the flight paths of various Russian oligarchs.
On 7 November, shortly after acquiring Twitter for $44bn, Musk tweeted: “My commitment to free speech extends even to not banning the account following my plane, even though that is a direct personal safety risk.”
But on Wednesday, Sweeney tweeted: “Well, it appears @ElonJet is suspended.”
He also tweeted a screenshot of a Twitter message that read: “After careful review, we determined your account broke the Twitter Rules. Your account is permanently in read-only mode, which means you can’t Tweet, Retweet, or Like content. You won’t be able to create new accounts.”
Over the weekend, Sweeney tweeted that his account had been shadowbanned, meaning that its visibility had been deliberately reduced.
“Internal messages obtained by a[n] anonymous Twitter employee explained to me that on ‘2 Dec[ember] 2022 your account @elonjet was visibility limited/restricted to a severe degree internally,’” Sweeney wrote.
He then included a screenshot that allegedly showed Ella Irwin, vice-president of Twitter’s trust and safety council, asking her team to apply “heavy VF [visibility filtering] to @elonjet immediately”.
The trust and safety council was dissolved on Monday. The same day, Sweeney tweeted that it appeared @ElonJet was no longer banned or hidden.
On Wednesday, Sweeney did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
When Musk discovered the @ElonJet account, earlier this year, he asked Sweeney to delete it.
“Can you take this down? It is a security risk,” he wrote to Sweeney, adding: “I don’t love the idea of being shot by a nutcase.”
In February, Sweeney told the Guardian: “And then he offers me $5,000 to make it harder for people to track him and to take down the account, and I make my counter-offer.”
Sweeney replied: “Any chance to up that to $50K? It would be great support in college and would possibly allow me to get a car, maybe even a [Tesla] Model 3.”
Musk, the owner of Tesla, which makes electric cars, declined to pay up. He eventually blocked Sweeney on Twitter.