The One Way This Teen Would Stop Tracking Elon's Jet

When you're the world's richest man, there isn't much you can't buy. But last year, Elon Musk turned down a counter offer from the owner of a particularly annoying Twitter account, after initially offering $5,000 to have it shut down. The account's owner, then-teenager Jack Sweeney, wanted $50,000 to stop tracking Musk's private jet — claiming he would put some of the money towards college and maybe even buy a Tesla. Musk didn't go for the five-figure offer, and as of October 2022, @ElonJet is still posting updates on the location of the billionaire's private plane. Alongside information on where the jet is flying from and where it has landed, the Twitter page provides details on the amount of fuel used, the cost of that fuel, and the carbon emissions the trip has produced.

Musk's main issue with the account, which uses a combination of bots and publicly available information to track the flights, seems to be security related. During his DM exchange with Sweeney, the SpaceX founder highlighted how he didn't "love the idea of being shot by a nutcase." Although the dedicated Twitter account does make things easier, flight data is logged with organizations like the FCC and anyone with a particular plane's registration details can use a flight tracking website or app to keep an eye on its movements. 

As the account has over half a million followers, the idea that not all of them are fans of Musk isn't particularly outlandish. Musk also isn't the only celebrity to be targeted by the Floridian college student's Twitter accounts. Former world's richest man Jeff Bezos, rapper Drake, investor Mark Cuban, politician Nancy Pelosi, and Microsoft founder Bill Gates are amongst the many public figures whose flights have been tracked by Sweeney (via The Guardian).

Sweeney has made Musk another offer

A year on, Jack Sweeney has made Elon Musk another public offer, and the college student isn't asking for money this time. In fact, the tech billionaire could get Sweeney off his back with just a few minutes of his time. The flight-tracking student outlined the new offer to the New York Post, saying: "If he let me fly with him on his jet, record it and talk about it — and maybe not even pay me the $50,000 — I would take it down. That is still up for discussion."

Some of Musk's jet trips have been short enough to draw criticism. Sweeney's offer comes after a nine-minute flight across a small part of California saw the billionaire accused of hypocrisy. Musk's main business, Tesla, deals in electric cars, which are a more climate-friendly personal transport option in most cases. Musk has also supported international treaties designed to combat climate change — severing his ties with the Trump administration when the former president pulled the United States out of the Paris Climate Agreement.

Musk's 35-mile flight from San Jose to San Francisco wasn't the only interesting trip Sweeney's bots have picked up. Sweeney has also noted Musk's visit to Tesla's Berlin Gigafactory, his vacation in Greece, and claims to be the first to have known about a Starlink-related trip to Brazil. The 20-year-old's offer is also likely to be genuine, as he stopped following another well-known billionaire after a similar proposal was made.

Sweeney has stopped tracking other celebs

Sweeney's Twitter accounts have also targeted Shark Tank investor Mark Cuban, who in turn expressed similar security concerns to Musk. According to screenshots sent to Business Insider, the investor was worried about the potential risk to his family some people on the social media platform could pose. He initially asked how much money Sweeney wanted in exchange for the account before the two came to a different agreement.

In exchange for dropping the account, Cuban has agreed to give Sweeney business advice and has provided the 20-year-old with his personal email address. Sweeney also asked to meet up with the investor at a Dallas Mavericks game — a request which Cuban, who owns the Texas-based basketball team, also agreed to accommodate. However, the decision to put the account tracking Cuban on pause may have been a lot easier for the Floridian student. @MCubansJets only has around 3,500 followers — far short of the half a million Musk's account, which is Sweeny's most popular, commands.

Musk may have another option

Although Sweeney's tracking accounts use publicly available information and haven't directly violated the rules of any platform they operate on, things haven't exactly gone smoothly for them. The student recently reported his account, which tracks Meta owner Mark Zuckerberg's jet, had been banned from Facebook, another platform owned by Zuckerberg, without any reason being given. The ban was appealed, and the account was later reinstated, but Facebook has yet to explain to Sweeney why the ban was issued in the first place. The 20-year-old claims he has had similar issues with his Discord channel. The Facebook ban also caused problems with Sweeney's flight tracking bots and essentially took all of his other profiles down with it until the problem was fixed.

A curious thing to note is Sweeney's profiles on Instagram, another social media platform owned by Meta, were unaffected by the ban — which suggests it could be a one-off mistake on Facebook's part and not a conspiracy to protect the platform's owner. However, a private company can refuse to provide services to an individual for a number of reasons. While certain characteristics, like race, nationality, gender, and sexual orientation have legal protections in place to prevent discrimination, the owner of a social media platform is legally free to ban an individual because that individual is annoying them. So if the Elon Musk Twitter Saga ends with the world's richest man being forced to follow through with his purchase of the platform, he may get a consolation prize. Despite previously promising to turn the social media giant into a "free speech platform," Musk could instead use his majority shareholding to silence an account that has been annoying him since 2020.