Elon Musk and the teenager tracking the private jets of billionaires

Jack Sweeney sees hypocrisy in the super-rich claiming to be ‘green’ while using private jets as if they’re cars. Brian McGleenon speaks to the student about how he started tracking the flights

<p>Musk made Sweeney a less than lucrative offer to close his flight-tracking Twitter account</p>

Musk made Sweeney a less than lucrative offer to close his flight-tracking Twitter account

A student’s Twitter experiment has revealed how “the super-rich are using their private jets and flying around like there is no climate crisis”. Jack Sweeney, the teenage coder behind the @ElonJet Twitter account, explains that Elon Musk blocked him, perhaps because the Tesla CEO was worried about how this will affect his green credentials. The Florida native and university freshman set himself a coding task to work on during the reclusive months of the pandemic lockdown. When he released his endeavour to the world it exploded in popularity.

His @ElonJet Twitter account has now gained more than 380,000 followers in approximately three months. Sweeney has given an eager public an insight into how billionaires live, and particularly how extravagantly they travel. His project also ended up aggravating the richest man in the world and led to the SpaceX boss offering the 19-year-old a less than lucrative proposition.

Novel inventions often come from the unlikely combination of two ordinary elements. Sweeney’s innovation was to take publicly available ADS-B data from aircraft transponders and combine the information with Twitter bot algorithms. The aviation enthusiast has now created 16 automated Twitter accounts that track the private jet flights of the world’s billionaires. The movements of most of the world’s tech barons are now covered by the young man’s algorithmic endeavours. The most popular is the Twitter account that tracks the daily movements of Musk.

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