Elon Musk has threatened to ban people from Twitter if they post a flight-tracking link of a celebrity, politician or anyone else for that matter. The policy shift follows the Tesla billionaire’s decision to block an account that had automatically tweeted the whereabouts of Musk’s private jet.
The @ElonJet Twitter account had frustrated Musk after it used publicly available ADS-B flight tracking data to automatically post the live location of his Gulfstream G650ER. Musk had offered a measly $5,000 to the teenage developer of the account but after Jack Sweeney turned down the offer, musk spent $44 billion to buy Twitter.
Now able to change Twitter’s rules at a whim, Musk announced on Wednesday that the doxxing (sharing private information without someone’s permission online) of real-time location information would result in a Twitter suspension. The announcement came hours after @ElonJet was mysteriously taken offline.
“Any account doxxing real-time location info of anyone will be suspended, as it is a physical safety violation,” Musk said in a tweet explaining the policy shift. “This includes posting links to sites with real-time location info. Posting locations someone traveled to on a slightly delayed basis isn’t a safety problem, so is ok.”
The announcement immediately raised questions about the many seemingly innocent and newsworthy tweets that could now result in a Twitter ban.
For example, could tweeting a link to popular flight tracking websites like Flight Radar 24 or Flight Aware result in a Twitter suspension? Or how about tweeting about the movements of sports teams, celebs and politicians?
In August, a U.S. military jet made history as the most-tracked flight in history as it was carrying former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to a historic but highly controversial visit to Taiwan.
By all accounts, Pelosi had not given express permission for the location of the U.S. Air Force Boeing C-40C aircraft to be broadcast across Twitter, although the fact the 11-year-old aircraft was even transmitting location data would give a pretty good indication of Pelosi’s wishes.
Thankfully, Twitter’s safety team clarified the rules and, in most cases at least, sharing flight tracking links probably won’t result in a ban. Specifically, sharing “information related to a public engagement or event, such as a concert or political event” is allowed.
For example, sharing Pelosi’s live location would be allowed as she was travelling to a pre-arranged public engagement. Flight tracking links of celebs travelling to a different city for a concert should also be allowed, but sharing the location information of a celebrity going on holiday would be disallowed.
There are some gray areas, however. Earlier this year, one of the most tracked flights on Flight Radar 24 was a British Airways A380 carrying former UK Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng as he travelled back to London to find out his fate.
Kwarteng wasn’t travelling for a pre-arranged event and hadn’t made his travel details public, but even in this situation, Twitter has made it clear that it won’t ban users because the information was already being widely shared across other media platforms.
In other words, even if flight tracking data is publicly available, Twitter will only ban someone from Twitter if they choose to share the live location of someone who is travelling on a private matter, they wouldn’t otherwise want their location shared with the masses and the location isn’t already shared widely elsewhere.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.