Twitter on Wednesday suspended more than 25 accounts that tracked the plans of government agencies, billionaires and high-profile individuals, including one that tracked the movements of the social media company’s owner, Elon Musk, who has said he was committed to “free speech”. “
Jack Sweeney, a 20-year-old college student and flight tracking enthusiast, said he woke up Wednesday to find that his automated Twitter account, @ElonJet, had been suspended. In recent months, the account amassed more than 500,000 followers by using public flight information and data to publicize the whereabouts of Mr. Musk’s private jet. Twitter later reinstated the @ElonJet account before suspending it again.
Mr. Musk had known @ElonJet for months. After buying Twitter for $44 billion in October, it said it would allow the account to remain on the platform. “My commitment to free speech extends even to not banning the account after my plane, even though this is a direct risk to personal safety,” said Mr. moss he tweeted last month.
Mr. Sweeney’s personal Twitter account was also suspended on Wednesday, along with the other accounts he runs that track the plans of tech billionaires such as Mark Zuckerberg, Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates. Mr. Sweeney shared a message she received from Twitter, which said her account had been suspended for violating rules “against platform manipulation and spam.”
In an interview, Mr. Sweeney said that the behavior of the aircraft tracking accounts had not changed and that he had not been given a specific reason why they had been suspended. “He’s doing the exact opposite of what he said,” said Mr. Musk, adding that the suspensions felt arbitrary given that the accounts had been around for months.
Since taking over Twitter, Mr. Musk has gone back and forth on deciding what content and accounts should and shouldn’t be on the platform. It initially said it would form a council to make decisions about content moderation, but later abandoned those plans. He also welcomed former President Donald J. Trump’s account and declared an amnesty for people, including white nationalists, who had been suspended from Twitter for violating its rules on hate speech or incitement to violence .
Mr. Musk and Twitter did not respond to a request for comment. But Mr. Musk said on Twitter that “posting someone else’s location in real time violates the doxxing policy, but delayed posting of locations is fine.”
But as of Tuesday, the Internet Archive shows that Twitter’s privacy and media policy webpage did not mention the phrase “live location.”
Wednesday afternoon, @ElonJet was briefly reinstated after Mr. Sweeney made an appeal on Twitter, saying he could delay his posts about the locations of Mr. Musk’s plane. He said he would do the same with his other aircraft tracking accounts.
Before owning Twitter, Mr. Musk offered Mr. Sweeney $5,000 to take @ElonJet offline; later blocked the student after mr. Sweeney tried to negotiate. Mr. Since then, Sweeney has created more than two dozen automated Twitter accounts using public flight data to track the plans of tech billionaires, Russian oligarchs, and national and international government agencies.
Jason Calacanis, technology investor and advisor to Mr. Musk for taking control of Twitter, he tweeted on Wednesday that his personal belief was that “the sustained sharing of public location information is de facto doxing,” using a phrase usually reserved for sharing private information on the Internet.
Mr. Sweeney said the information shared on the accounts was already public.
“If somebody wanted to do something, they could do it without me,” he said.