Twitter CEO and owner Elon Musk is taking legal action against Jack Sweeney, the University of Central Florida student who tracks his private plane and publishes his flight information on social media under the @ElonJet banner.
Musk announced his intentions on Twitter Wednesday evening hours after the social media platform permanently suspended the @ElonJet account and Sweeney’s personal account. In a tweet, Musk said that a “crazy stalker” had followed the car his 2-year-old son, X, was riding in on Tuesday night in Los Angeles. The perpetrator reportedly blocked the car from moving and climbed onto the hood.
“Last night, car carrying lil X in LA was followed by crazy stalker (thinking it was me), who later blocked car from moving & climbed onto hood,” Musk wrote. “Legal action is being taken against Sweeney & organizations who supported harm to my family.”
The billionaire later posted a video of the alleged perpetrator, who is wearing a black hoodie and a half-cover ski mask, as well as his license plate. He asked his more than 120 million followers if they recognized the person or car.
In addition, Musk on Wednesday also revealed a change to Twitter’s policy on the sharing of real-time information, stating that “any account doxxing real-time location info of anyone will be suspended.” The Twitter owner said that sharing a person’s real-time location was a “physical safety violation.”
Accounts that post links to sites with real-time location information will also be banned, the billionaire explained.
Tensions over the future of the @ElonJet account on Twitter became the latest scandal on the Musk-owned social network in recent days. The drama began when Sweeney accused Twitter of shadowbanning @ElonJet this past weekend. By Monday, Sweeney said that @ElonJet appeared to have its visibility back, leading him to believe that Twitter had reversed course. That was not the case. Instead, it was the beginning of a roller coaster ride.
Early on Wednesday, users began to notice that the @ElonJet account had been suspended, which Sweeney later confirmed. On Wednesday evening, @ElonJet returned briefly, tweeting: “Wait Hello? How long does delay mean @elonmusk... hour? we need some well defined rules.”
Hours later @ElonJet and Sweeney’s personal Twitter account were permanently suspended again. The student’s other plane trackers, dedicated to following high-profile people like Drake, Jeff Bezos, and Taylor Swift, were also suspended.
Musk’s decision to ban @ElonJet comes roughly a month after he said he wouldn’t ban the account in the name of “free speech.” His tweeted commitment not to ban the account now includes a Community Note that points out Musk’s flip flopping on the issue.
“My commitment to free speech extends even to not banning the account following my plane, even though that is a direct personal safety risk,” the Twitter CEO wrote on Nov. 6.
Musk’s beef with Sweeney dates back to January of the this year, when he messaged the student on Twitter to ask him to take down the @ElonJet account because it was a “security risk.” At the time, Musk offered Sweeney $5,000 to delete the account, stating that he didn’t want “crazy people” tracking his flights.
“I don’t love the idea of being shot by a nutcase,” Musk told the student.
Sweeney rejected Musk’s offer and instead asked the billionaire for $50,000, which he said he could use to pay for college or perhaps buy a Tesla Model 3. The student also suggested that Musk could offer him an internship in exchange for taking down the account. Musk didn’t like any of those options and blocked Sweeney on Twitter.
Sweeney originally started tracking Musk’s plane because he was a fan of the billionaire. His methods are far from nefarious. Sweeney’s tracker, which is still available on Facebook and Instagram, uses information from ADS-B exchange, a hobbyist site that gathers public transponder data from different aircraft.
The student told The New York Times on Wednesday that he didn’t share Musk’s opinion about the safety risks posed by his tracker.
“If someone wanted to do something, they could do it without me,” Sweeney said.