Is Elon Musk having inconvenient Twitter accounts blocked? This suspicion suggests itself. Only recently, journalists who criticized Musk, as well as a tracking account to Elon Musk’s private jet, were banned from the short message platform.
Reporters from the New York Times, the Washington Post, CNN – numerous accounts of influential journalists were recently suspended on Twitter. They all had two things in common: they criticized Musk’s leadership style on Twitter and linked to an account that published up-to-date live data on the location of the billionaire’s private jet. However, the reasons for the account suspensions seem flimsy and inconsistent.
What exactly is at stake?
Jack Sweeney – a 20-year-old student from Orlando – programmed a bot that he linked to the Twitter account “@ElonJet.” Explosively, the account regularly posted data on Elon Musk’s private jet. This included departure airports, flight routes, fuel consumption and CO2 emissions, as well as landing times. More than a million people followed the Twitter account. Sweeney became popular, gave television interviews and publicly haggled with Elon Musk on Twitter about the conditions under which he would shut down his bot.
Twitter reacts – and blocks @ElonJet
Apparently too much of a good thing for Elon Musk. In mid-December, Twitter blocked the account. Probably also against the background that Musk offered the student 5,000 US dollars and a free Tesla for closing the account – and he refused. The block raises many questions. After all, as recently as November, Elon Musk had stressed that he felt so committed to freedom of expression that he would not even have the Twitter account that published data from his private jet blocked.
Journalist accounts also affected
But Jack Sweeney’s account was not the only one targeted by the billionaire. The accounts of several critical tech journalists were also blocked. Among them were the accounts of Donie O’Sullivan (CNN, 300,000 followers) and of Aaron Rupar (freelance journalist, 800,000 followers). They had all linked to the @ElonJet account. The reasoning: The publication of real-time location information endangers the physical safety of the person concerned.
Justified blocking or personal calculation?
A rather specious argument, because all data published by @Elonjet is freely available on the website of the US Transportation Department anyway. And the fact that a link to @ElonJet already results in a block also seems absurd. After all, by no means all accounts that have ever retweeted @ElonJet have been banned from the platform. It seems as if the incidents are a welcome occasion for Elon Musk to ban unwelcome critics from Twitter.