UCF student following Elon Musk’s plane unafraid of Twitter buying turbulence – Orlando Sentinel
While some worry about the turbulence caused by billionaire Elon Musk’s purchase of Twitter, a student at the University of Central Florida is flying high with no worries.
UCF freshman Jack Sweeney caught the eye of the social media platform and Musk himself in 2020 after creating the Aviation Tracking Twitter bot account @ElonJetwhich follows Musk’s private jet flight patterns and has 432,000 followers.
Earlier this year, Musk reached out to Sweeney to ask him to remove the account over privacy concerns, offering the UCF IT major $5,000 to remove it. Sweeney countered with $50,000. He said Musk told him he would think about it, but negotiations ended soon after.
With Musk’s $44 billion Twitter purchase, @ElonJet fans fear the platform acquisition will ground the account’s business, but Sweeney said he isn’t concerned Musk will shut it down .
“I’m not too worried about it, for me,” he said, focusing on other changes Musk could make to Twitter. “I think it will do the platform good. He wants to get rid of spam, make it more transparent. He enjoys listening to customers and trying to make things better. I think it’s good for Twitter.
Although, if Musk deletes the account, Sweeney has prepared a contingency platforms where fans can continue to watch Musk’s aerial moves.
Still, Sweeney doubts the account will be deleted due to Musk’s comments about free internet. Musk tweeted his thoughts on the subject in favor of returning Twitter to a place of free speech without fear of banned accounts. While Musk has yet to release a plan for how he intends to handle Twitter, he has suggested there needs to be a tougher crackdown on fake Twitter accounts or Twitterbots.
“He’s always talking about free speech, so if he did something and shut down (me) people would call him out,” Sweeney said.
Sweeney first created @ElonJet while in high school during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic. He was interested in what aerial information might reveal about Musk’s potential business dealings – but mostly because Sweeney was stuck indoors and bored.
“I was a fan of him, SpaceX and Tesla and all that. I knew about flight tracking and I knew he had a plane and I thought it would be interesting to see where he goes,” Sweeney said. .
Musk uses blocking software to prevent people from tracking his flights, but all takeoffs and landings are public information. So, Sweeney got to work manually trying to identify Musk’s flight patterns.
Two months later, Sweeney launched @ElonJet, and soon after the account started gaining followers. Sweeney has run several other accounts stalking Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates and others, but his Musk tracker remains the most popular.
In September 2020, Sweeney caught his first whiff Musk knew of his account when @ElonJet spotlighted Musk’s plane in Hawaii. Twitter users started saying Musk wouldn’t be taking a vacation, and they were right. Musk explained that he was there to meet Larry Ellison, business investor and co-founder of Oracle Corporation.
Earlier this year, Sweeney said his phone informed him of a Twitter message from the “Dogefather” himself, Musk.
“Can you remove this? It’s a security risk,” the message read.
Then Sweeney did what anyone would do when directly contacted by one of the most powerful individuals in the world. Sweeney put down his phone and fell asleep.
It left Musk unread until the next morning.
Afterwards, the two communicated back and forth to discuss Musk’s privacy concerns and exposure to potential threats. Sweeney discussed different blocking software that Musk might be interested in using. Eventually, Musk offered Sweeney $5,000 to delete the account.
Sweeney countered by asking for $50,000. He said Musk thought about it and finally replied, “It doesn’t seem fair to me to pay to take it down.”
Last week Sweeney noticed he couldn’t locate Musk’s jet and realized that Musk was trying to hide his flight patterns from @ElonJet using the blocking software Sweeney had recommended to him.
“In a way, it hides it more from others, but since I know so much about the program and its movements, it actually made it easier for me to find it,” Sweeney said. “There’s only a limited number of people with this blocking program filter and the planes with it. His jet is still in Austin, Brownsville and (Los Angeles). He’s the only person doing this on Earth.
Sweeney makes money with ElonJet, “but it’s not a lot,” he said. “It’s gratifying in other ways. Like, I have my own community now.
Best-case scenario, Sweeney hopes @ElonJet will continue to fly through the open skies of a free-speech internet and maybe even bring it to a land of opportunity.
“I mean, I hope he gets back to me. Maybe he gives me a job on Twitter.” Sweeney laughed.