Twitter Inc. boss Elon Musk took some flak today after an account that tracked his place was suspended along with two dozen or so other similar accounts, a move that some said was hypocritical due to Musk’s stance on free speech.
The account, @elonjet, run by a student in Florida named Jack Sweeney, had amassed about half a million followers. Those who watched it were privy to seeing where Musk went in his private jet, which Musk, after being criticized over his free speech hypocrisy, said the account was taken down because it was a “direct personal safety risk” to himself and his family.
“This is coordinated and Elon is well aware I’m sure,” said Sweeney, who had in the past been offered $5,000 by Musk for his account. Musk later said that real-time tracking equates to doxing, although “delayed posting of locations are ok.”
Twitter seems to have taken down around 25 similar accounts that tracked the planes of very rich people, government agencies, or other high-profile individuals. In the world of tech, accounts that tracked the movements of Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg, and Bill Gates were also removed from the platform.
People who’ve been watching this story as it unfolds have said that Twitter created new policies within the last 24 hours of those accounts being banned. Part of the new policy reads, “If the information is not shared during a crisis situation to assist with humanitarian efforts, we will remove any tweets or accounts that share someone’s live location.”
Musk’s alleged commitment to free speech makes him a target, especially when he creates new rules on the fly that affect him. He at least has the backing of Twitter’s co-founder and former Chief Executive, who yesterday said he was behind Musk and his mission to “reset” Twitter. Dorsey said he also supported the release of the Twitter files, internal data relating to how Twitter went about moderation over the last few years.
It looked as though Musk couldn’t make up his mind at one point since he banned Sweeney’s account, then reinstated it, and then banned it again. To his credit, there’s a good case to say live tracking could put someone’s life in danger. Musk tweeted today, “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.” He added, “Legal action is being taken against Sweeney & organizations who supported harm to my family.”
The Twitter Safety page explained that such accounts will be suspended on the platform from now on because of “an increased risk of physical harm.” People will be able to share their own live location, but not other people’s. Sharing live locations for events will also be fine.
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