The account, @ElonJet, was run by Florida college student Jack Sweeney and had amassed more than half a million followers. It tracked Musk’s plane’s location using publicly available flight data and appears to have been suspended Wednesday morning.
“This is coordinated and Elon is well aware I’m sure,” he wrote before his account was deleted.
The 20-year-old told CNBC he started the account in June 2020 because he was a fan of Musk’s work at Tesla and SpaceX where he’s CEO of both companies.
“Even now, my dream car is definitely a Tesla,” Sweeney said.
Musk acquired Twitter for $44 billion in October, and he has been vocal about his efforts to protect free speech on the site. In early November, Musk claimed he was such a staunch advocate for free speech that he would not ban the plane tracking account, which he called a “direct personal safety risk.”
Internally, however, Twitter employees may have received different instructions. Sweeney shared a thread of tweets on Dec. 10 claiming his account had been shadow banned, which means the reach of the account is intentionally limited.
He said an employee sent him a screenshot of the company’s vice president of Twitter’s Trust and Safety Council asking to place heavy visibility filtering on @ElonJet. The Trust and Safety Council was disbanded Monday.
But on Dec. 12, Sweeney said in a tweet that it appeared as though the @ElonJet account was no longer hidden or banned “in any way.”
As a result, Sweeney said he was surprised to find his account suspended Wednesday, especially because Musk said he would not do it. He told CNBC that Musk had previously offered to pay him $5,000 to take down the account because it was a safety risk.
“Eventually, the last message from him was ‘It doesn’t feel right to take this down,'” Sweeney said.
Sweeney also ran accounts dedicated to tracking the private flights of other public figures like Bill Gates, former President Donald Trump and Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg. All three of those accounts have been suspended.
Sweeney told CNBC all of these accounts were banned for violating Twitter’s rules against “platform manipulation and spam.” He has not heard from Musk or his team directly, and his biggest takeaway from the experience has been that Musk “doesn’t follow his word,” he said.
Musk did not immediately respond to requests for comment.