Teen who tracks Elon Musk’s jet on Twitter says he was ‘shadowbanned’

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The Florida college student who created a Twitter account that tracks the flight movements of Elon Musk’s private jet claimed he was briefly “shadowbanned” by the platform after it was bought by the tech mogul.

Jack Sweeney, a freshman at the University of Central Florida in Orlando, took to Twitter over the weekend and posted a screenshot of internal Slack messages that he said were from a current Twitter worker.

“Internal messages obtained by a anonymous Twitter employee explained to me that on ‘Dec 2 2022 your account @elonjet was visibility limited/restricted to a severe degree internally’,” Sweeney tweeted.

“Screenshots show Ella Irwin VP at Twitter Trust and Safety requesting elonjet to have heavy VF (visibility filtering),” he added.

“Shadowbanning” is the practice whereby social media platforms “de-amplify” or throttle certain accounts without notifying their owners they were 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 be abandoned by the the self-described “free-speech absolutist.”

Sweeney told The Post that he believes something suspicious was going on.

“Elon might have told Ella Irwin to do that,” he told The Post. “I don’t know what the cause was. It most likely was him, I would assume.”

Musk, who terminated Twitter’s media relations team upon buying the social media site in late October, was not available for comment.

On Monday, Sweeney ran the @elonjet account through a “shadowbanning” test website, which found that the handle was active.

“It appears @ElonJet is [no] longer banned or hidden in anyway,” Sweeney tweeted. “I think Twitter noticed my tweets and back tracked. Guilty in my book.”

Elon Musk has previously stated that he had no plans to suspend Sweeney’s account even though it puts his personal safety at risk.
via REUTERS

Sweeney has locked horns with Musk since launching the @elonjet account in June 2020. He created a bot that uses publicly available flight data to track Musk’s private jet as it relocates to different airports.

Musk has stated in the past that he believes the account is a threat to his personal security. But last month, he said that 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.

Since Musk’s acquisition of Twitter, the handle has surpassed half a million followers, Sweeney told The Post.

Sweeney said he’s noticed Musk hasn’t spent nearly as much time at SpaceX headquarters. Instead, the mogul, whose portfolio of companies including Tesla, SpaceX, The Boring Company and Neuralink, appears preoccupied with the social media site.

“He’s putting a lot of time into Twitter right now,” Sweeney told The Post. “I haven’t seen him down at SpaceX [headquarters in Texas] in at least two weeks.”

Sweeney created a bot that uses publicly available flight data to track Musk's movements.
Sweeney created a bot that uses publicly available flight data to track Musk’s movements.

Sweeney has also created accounts tracking the private jet flights of celebrities and billionaires including former President Donald Trump, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates.

As The Post reported, Musk contacted Sweeney last year through Twitter direct messages and offered him $5,000 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.

Sweeney made a counter-offer of $50,000. Musk said he would consider the offer, but later said it didn’t “feel right” and stopped responding to his messages.

According to Sweeney, Musk has devoted most of his time to Twitter in recent weeks.
According to Sweeney, Musk has devoted most of his time to Twitter in recent weeks.
AP

Sweeney parlayed the exchange into other opportunities, including a job offer and merchandise sales.

Last week, Bari Weiss, the independent journalist, tweeted the second installment of the “Twitter Files” which showed how the San Francisco-based social media company placed conservatives on secret “blacklists” while “shadowbanning” far-right users.

Conservative talk show host Dan Bongino, Stanford University’s anti-COVID lockdown advocate Dr. Jay Bhattacharya and right-wing activist Charlie Kirk were among the users targeted for suppression by Twitter, according to Weiss.

Musk has said he bought Twitter in order to undo its perceived left-wing bias which critics say led to the site’s censorship of the New York Post’s scoop about Hunter Biden’s infamous laptop in the weeks and months leading up to the 2020 elections.

Additional Reporting by Thomas Barrabi

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