Teen who created bot to track Elon Musk’s private jet fears he’ll be banned from Twitter after takeover

“​​It’s hard to think that he wouldn’t do something,” the teen coder behind the jet tracking bot said

Johanna Chisholm
Tuesday 26 April 2022 14:30
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Teen who tracks Elon Musk's private jet says he'll stop for a new Tesla

In the wake of Twitter sealing a deal with Elon Musk to sell the social media company to the tech billionaire for approximately $44bn, there’s been a flurry of speculation about how the new owner intends to moderate a platform he’s vowed to take private while also prioritising “free speech”.

One person fearful of what a Musk-ruled Twitter will look like is Jack Sweeney, the teenage coder behind the Twitter bot @ElonJet, an account that tracks the movements of the Tesla titan’s private jet escapades.

Speaking to Insider following Monday’s announcement of the San Francisco-based platform’s sale to Mr Musk, the Florida native and university freshman told the outlet that he was unsure if the SpaceX founder will allow him to keep the bot account alive.

“​​It’s hard to think that he wouldn’t do something," Mr Sweeney told Insider.

Mr Sweeney’s concerns are likely merited, particularly in the light of what happened last fall between the teen and the new Twitter owner.

In November 2021, Mr Musk reportedly reached out to Mr Sweeney and offered the coder $5,000 to shut down the jet tracking account, arguing that there were security concerns with the information being shared publicly.

Mr Sweeney, however, refused the offer and instead countered with $50,000, plus an internship or a Tesla Model 3, according to reporting from The New York Times.

Now that the Tesla founder will soon be heading up one of the most influential social media platforms, a purchase he secured by offering to pay out $54.20 cash per share, Mr Sweeney told Insider that he might try to squeeze a bit more than his previous counteroffer, particularly since the portfolio of Mr Musk, who is already the richest person in the world, is likely going to increase after this recent transaction.

​​“It would definitely have to be a pretty good deal now, because it’s gone on for so long,” Mr Sweeney told Insider. “Definitely a Tesla, fully paid for and everything.”

Outside of Mr Musk’s own attempts at silencing the bot, Mr Sweeney has not been without critics for airing the travels of the rich and famous.

Speaking to The Independent in February, the teen coder described how he’d faced routine threats from Mr Musk’s fans, with some writing “really abusive” messages.

“There are some on Twitter who don’t like what I am doing,” he said. “I get rude direct messages, but the really bad ones I report and the accounts are eventually taken down.”

Though the creator of the 410,000-follower account has yet to receive any direct assurances that his jet tracking bot won’t be taken down, Mr Musk, a self-proclaimed free speech enthusiast, said in a statement Monday ahead of the reached agreement that he’d like his “worst critics” to remain on the social media platform.

“I hope that even my worst critics remain on Twitter, because that is what free speech means,” he wrote.

Later, after the sale had been announced, Mr Musk went even further and said in a company statement: “​​Free speech is the bedrock of a functioning democracy, and Twitter is the digital town square where matters vital to the future of humanity are debated.”

He also added that he wanted to make the social media platform “better”, which would include adding new features, increasing transparency in the app’s algorithms and removing spam bots.

“Twitter has tremendous potential – I look forward to working with the company and the community of users to unlock it.”

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