Jack Sweeney, the college student who developed a hobby tracking Elon Musk’s private jet, woke up at 9 a.m. Wednesday to find that the billionaire had banned his Twitter account.
The 20-year-old, currently on winter break from the University of Central Florida, had emerged as Elon Musk’s social media arch-nemesis over the past year, with more than 500,000 followers curious about the Tesla titan’s travel habits.
Last month, shortly after completing his $44 billion acquisition of Twitter, Elon Musk commended himself for being allowed to keep the account, arguing that it would demonstrate his commitment to free speech. Even if he considers the jet tracker a direct personal safety risk.
It’s so crazy, because he literally put out the whole tweet saying he’s not going to ban the profile this morning, I’m so shocked, Sweeney told The Daily Beast on Wednesday.
The automated account is no longer available on the platform, days after Sweeney said it was shadow banned. Over the weekend, he shared a Twitter thread in which he said a Twitter employee told him on December 2 that the account’s visibility was limited/internally limited to a severe degree.
The thread also includes a screenshot purported to show Ella Irwin — the person who replaced Joel Roth as Twitter’s head of trust and safety — sending a slurred message to an unspecified team to heavily VF @elonjet. It is not immediately clear when the message was sent.
The term visibility filtering is used by Twitter employees to refer to shadow restriction, Bari Weiss reported in a Twitter thread last week. The former New York Times columnist said an unnamed employee of the company told him it was used as a tool.
Weiss said that visibility filtering was used to “block searches for individual users” so that people could suppress what they see to various levels; to limit the searchability of any particular Tweet; to select users; To prevent a post from appearing on the ‘Trending’ page; and by being included in hashtag searches,” without users’ knowledge.
On Monday, Sweeney followed up on his thread saying that it appears the shadow ban is over. Sweeney tweeted on Tuesday, I think Twitter noticed my tweet and backtracked.
As of Wednesday morning, tweets from the Jet account were inaccessible with only one message: Account suspended. He told The Daily Beast that Sweeney was skeptical of Twitter’s claim that the account violated its rules. Had it been true, it would have been suspended a month ago, he said. They can bend the rules like they want to bend the rules for some people.
He said the ban invalidates Musk’s claim that he wants Twitter to be a town square where all forms of speech are accepted.
There’s a town square, like the police, but you’re allowed to protest, he said. But here he has deactivated the account.