By Caden Pearson
Elon Musk threatened legal action against the owner of a suspended Twitter account on Wednesday night for sharing live location updates of his plane after he claimed a “crazy stalker” climbed onto a car carrying his 2-year-old son in Los Angeles.
Musk suspended the @elonjet Twitter account owned by college student Jack Sweeney and said he’s taking legal action against Sweeney and “organizations who supported harm to my family.”
“Any account doxxing real-time location info of anyone will be suspended, as it is a physical safety violation. This includes posting links to sites with real-time location info,” Musk said on Twitter.
He noted that posting location information about where someone has traveled to “on a slightly delayed basis” was allowed because it “isn’t a safety problem.”
Sweeney’s @elonjet account had shared publicly available, live plane-tracking data published by third-party websites, which is a violation of the platform’s doxxing policy. Doxxing is the practice of publishing someone’s private information online without their permission.
At least two flight tracking websites, FlightAware.com and PlaneFinder.net, no longer show information about Musk’s plane.
When searching for Musk’s aircraft on FlightAware.com, the company now states the aircraft “is not available for public tracking per request from the owner/operator.” A different flight tracking site, Plane Finder, returns a similar message.
Sweeney said Musk “gave me no warning” before permanently suspending his account, which he previously said had been restricted in the lead-up to the suspension.
“[P]lus he suspended all of my accounts, half of which track aircraft (NASA aircraft, experimental aircraft, weather, airforce etc). not people including my personal,” Sweeney said on Mastodon.
A screenshot of his suspension says Twitter said he violated “rules against platform manipulation and spam.”
‘Crazy Stalker’ Climbs on Musk’s Car
Musk had previously said he’d allow the account tracking his plane to remain on Twitter as part of his “commitment to free speech,” which has been central to the company’s values under his leadership.
This appears to have changed after he claimed a “crazy stalker” blocked and climbed onto the hood of a car carrying his young son on Tuesday night.
“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. Legal action is being taken against Sweeney & organizations who supported harm to my family,” Musk said.
Sweeney’s suspended @elonjet account, which had over 500,000 followers, monitored and shared the GPS position of Musk’s plane using publicly available flight tracking data.
Hours before Musk threatened to take legal action, he responded to Jim Hall, a self-described Tesla and SpaceX enthusiast and investor, who had contended that Sweeney had made it easier for “nutjobs” to find Musk and his family.
Hall shared a video of “paparazzi, stalkers, & fans” waiting for Musk outside an airport.
“The more the hate being drummed up online against Elon grows the larger the threat to Elon & his family grows. Imagine all the crazies at the extreme of both political sides targeting you nonstop,” Hall wrote.
Musk responded: “Real-time posting of someone else’s location violates doxxing policy, but delayed posting of locations are ok.”
Updated Doxxing Policy
Twitter updated its doxxing policy in December, prohibiting sharing live location information about individuals that could pose a risk to their safety.
Certain types of “private or live information carry higher risks” than others if they’re shared without permission, the policy states.
“Our primary aim is to protect individuals from potential physical harm as a result of their information being shared, so we consider information such as physical location and phone numbers to be a higher risk than other types of information.”
Posts that fall into this category include those with real-time or same-day information “where there is potential that the individual could still be at the named location,” according to the policy.
The types of information that can’t be shared without permission include a home address or physical location information, GPS coordinates, links to third-party URLs of travel routes, actual physical location, and other information that reveals a person’s location, “regardless if this information is publicly available.”