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Despite Free Speech Pledge, Twitter Suspends Account That Tracked Musk Jet

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Twitter has suspended an account that used publicly available flight data to track Elon Musk's private jet. (AP File Photo/Kiichiro Sato)
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Twitter has suspended an account that used publicly available flight data to track Elon Musk’s private jet, despite a pledge by the social media platform’s new owner to keep it up because of his free speech principles.

Tweets from the widely-followed @elonjet account were no longer viewable Wednesday. The account had more than 526,000 followers as of Tuesday.

“Account suspended,” says a note that appears when clicking on the account’s handle. “Twitter suspends accounts that violate the Twitter Rules.”

Started in 2020 by then-teenage programmer Jack Sweeney, the account automatically posts the Gulfstream jet’s flights with a map and an estimate of the amount of jet fuel and carbon emissions it expended.

“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.

Sweeney runs similar “bot” accounts tracking other celebrities’ airplanes. His accounts tracking private jets used by Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos and various Russian oligarchs were still on Twitter on Wednesday, as were his accounts tracking Musk’s jet on rival social platforms such as Facebook and Instagram.

Sweeney didn’t immediately return a request for comment Wednesday but on his personal Twitter account posted a screenshot showing a notice from Twitter that said @elonjet was permanently suspended. The note didn’t specify a reason for the permanent ban. Twitter didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Sweeney had days earlier accused Musk’s Twitter of using a filtering technique to hide his tweets, and revealed what he said were leaked internal communications showing a Twitter executive ordering her team to suppress the account’s reach. The Associated Press has not been able to independently verify those documents.

Musk has previously criticized that filtering technique — nicknamed “shadowbanning” — and alleged that it was unfairly used by Twitter’s past leadership to suppress right-wing accounts. He has said the new Twitter will continue to downgrade the reach of negative or hateful messages but will be more transparent about it.

In his push to loosen Twitter’s content restrictions, he’s reinstated other high-profile accounts that were permanently banned for breaking Twitter’s rules against hateful conduct, harmful misinformation or incitements of violence.

In the weeks since the Tesla CEO took over Twitter after buying it for $44 billion in late October, the @elonjet account has chronicled Musk’s many cross-country journeys from his home base near Tesla’s headquarters in Austin, Texas, to various California airports for his work at Twitter’s San Francisco headquarters and his rocket company SpaceX.

It showed Musk flying to East Coast cities ahead of major events, and to New Orleans shortly before a Dec. 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 it “has every right to post jet whereabouts” because the data is public and “every aircraft in the world is required to have a transponder,” including Air Force One that transports the U.S. president.

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