The college student who tracks Elon Musk’s private jet with an automated Twitter account said his tracker is no longer being “shadow-banned” after a Twitter employee told him the account’s reach was being quietly suppressed by the social media company.
Jack Sweeney, a student at the University of Central Florida, used a shadow-ban checker to confirm that his @elonjet account was no longer having its exposure on the website throttled.
“I think Twitter noticed my tweets and back tracked,” Mr. Sweeney wrote Monday. “Guilty in my book.”
The student originally posted a short thread Saturday, calling them his own “Twitter Files” — a play on the journalistic mini-series new Twitter boss Musk started about controversies the social media giant was involved with under its previous ownership.
Mr. Sweeney said that an anonymous Twitter employee told him “your account @elonjet was visibility limited/restricted to a severe degree internally” beginning Dec. 2.
The employee also sent Mr. Sweeney a screenshot of a message from Ella Irwin, Twitter’s vice president of Trust and Safety, where she said, “Team please apply heavy VF to @elonjet immediately.”
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“VF” is shorthand for “visibility filtering,” the in-house jargon used by Twitter’s staff that involves making it harder to search for certain accounts, preventing those accounts from showing up on peoples’ timelines and being unable to tag the accounts through suggested usernames.
In practice, it’s equivalent to what most people refer to as “shadow-banning.” One of the “Twitter Files” installments revealed that Twitter employees applied VF to conservative accounts in order to prevent other users from reading their content.
Mr. Sweeney originally started tracking the private jets in June 2020 and now has up to 30 automated accounts.
Each of them tweet publicly available information from sites such as ADS-B Exchange, which provides the location, altitude and speed data logged by federally regulated aircraft.
He cut a deal with Mark Cuban, the billionaire owner of the Dallas Mavericks, in the spring to shut down his @MCubansJet account in exchange for friendship and business advice.
Mr. Musk has long argued that the account creates a safety concern. The Tesla and SpaceX CEO offered Mr. Sweeney $5,000 to shut down the account in January, but the college student wanted $50,000 instead.
The automated account is still active and has close to 530,000 followers.
• Matt Delaney can be reached at email@example.com.
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