A US college student who operated a Twitter account that monitored Elon Musk’s private jet flights blasted the tech mogul as a “full-on hypocrite” after learning his account had been suspended.
Florida teen Jack Sweeney was alerted to the suspension of the @ElonJet account by New York Post when contacted on Wednesday.
“This is insane,” the 19-year-old said. “My phone’s going f***ing nuts.”
Musk, who pledged to allow the @ElonJet Twitter handle to continue operating after he acquired the social media site in late October, has apparently made a U-turn on the decision, New York Post reports.
Sweeney told The Post the move was a mistake on Musk’s part, because now he will get negative publicity for going back on his pledge to allow unfettered speech on the platform.
“He really is asking for it because it’s just going to get worse in the news,” Mr Sweeney said. “He’s going to be called a full-on hypocrite.”
When asked if he, also, thinks Musk is a “full-on hypocrite,” Mr Sweeney replied: “Yeah, it would seem so.”
In a tweet later on Wednesday, Musk said: “Real-time posting of someone else’s location violates doxing policy, but delayed posting of locations are OK.”
The @ElonJet account returned to Twitter on Wednesday night and pressed Musk for clarity about how long that delay would need to be.
Mr Sweeney told The Post that he believes a television interview that he conducted with the NewsNation cable channel on Tuesday – during which he questioned Musk’s commitment to free speech – may have been the catalyst for Musk’s move.
“I was on TV last night so that might have had something to do with it,” he said.
Mr Sweeney told The Post that he thinks Musk will justify the ban by claiming it is part of his pledge to purge the site of bot and spam accounts.
The flight-tracking handles are operated by a bot that Sweeney created which mines publicly available flight data tracking the movement of private jets.
“I bet that’s how he’s going to be playing this off,” Mr Sweeney said of Musk. “No bots are allowed, good or bad.”
Nevertheless, other Twitter handles that monitor the private jet movements of other billionaires, including Mark Zuckerberg, Jeff Bezos, Donald Trump and Bill Gates, remained active as of Wednesday morning, he said.
Another flight-monitoring handle that tracks support aircraft working for NASA is also functioning as per normal, according to the 19-year-old.
Mr Sweeney told The Post that he has no regrets about turning down Musk’s $5000 offer earlier this year to shut down the account.
He said he has made around $7000 in total from the handle thanks to merchandise sales, advertising and donations.
He said the attention he has received from the public has been gratifying, and that making money was not his prime motivation for operating the flight-tracking handles.
“It’s just been cool to connect with people on Twitter and other platforms [thanks to the popularity of @ElonJet],” Mr Sweeney told The Post. “People find me interesting.”
Still, he said he was concerned the Twitter ban would negatively affect the reach of @ElonJet handles that he is operating on other platforms, including Facebook, Instagram, Telegram and Discord.
Musk, who terminated Twitter’s media relations department shortly after completing his $US44 billion ($A66 billion) acquisition of the site, was not immediately available for comment.
Earlier this week, Mr Sweeney told The Post that he believed the @ElonJet handle was “shadow-banned” by the site.
He posted screenshots to his Twitter account that he claimed to have obtained from an employee of the San Francisco-based social media site.
The screenshot showed a chat on Twitter’s internal Slack messaging service in which Ella Irwin, the company’s vice president of trust and safety, was “requesting ElonJet to have heavy VF [visibility filtering]”.
“Shadow-banning” is the practice whereby social media platforms “de-amplify” or throttle certain accounts without notifying their owners they are doing so – thus effectively limiting their reach.
The practice was used to silence right-leaning commentators before Musk bought the site, but was thought to have been abandoned by the self-described “free-speech absolutist”.
Mr Sweeney tweeted that the “shadow-ban” was brief and that the handle was functioning normally as of Tuesday.
Musk has stated in the past that he believes the account is a threat to his personal security. But last month, he said he had no plans to suspend Sweeney’s account, which tracks the movements of his private jet.
“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 last month.
As The Post reported, Musk contacted Sweeney last year through Twitter direct messages and offered him $5000 to delete the account. The billionaire described the account as a “security risk” that could put his life in jeopardy.
“I don’t love the idea of being shot by a nutcase,” Musk said at the time.
Mr Sweeney made a counteroffer of $50,000. Musk said he would consider the offer, but later said it didn’t “feel right” and stopped responding to his messages.
Last week, independent journalist Bari Weiss tweeted the second instalment of the “Twitter Files” which showed how the San Francisco-based social media company placed conservatives on secret “blacklists” while “shadow-banning” far-right users.
Musk has said he bought the site in order to undo its perceived left-wing bias.
Additional reporting by Thomas Barrabi
This article originally appeared on New York Post and was reproduced with permission