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Twitter CEO Elon Musk said in November that he was so strongly committed to free speech he would not ban the account @ElonJet, which used publicly available data to track movements of his jet.
Twitter suspended @ElonJet Dec. 14. The account remained suspended as of Dec. 19.
"Free speech" has been the refrain of Elon Musk’s Twitter takeover.
Before he purchased the company in October for $44 billion, Musk had criticized Twitter’s content moderation policies, which he said unfairly censored conservatives.
In April, soon after he revealed plans to buy the company, he tweeted, "I hope that even my worst critics remain on Twitter, because that is what free speech means."
He celebrated his Oct. 27 acquisition of Twitter by tweeting that day: "The bird is freed."
Then, on Nov. 6, Musk tweeted: "My commitment to free speech extends even to not banning the account following my plane, even though that is a direct personal safety risk."
But in the weeks that followed, Musk changed Twitter’s policies and suspended accounts, including @ElonJet, the plane-tracking account he specifically mentioned in his Nov. 6 tweet.
We put Musk’s statement about the account @ElonJet on PolitiFact’s Flip-O-Meter, which evaluates whether a person has flip-flopped, and to what extent. The Flip-O-Meter does not make a value judgment on such shifts, but seeks to document them. Some people may agree with a person’s shift on a stance while others may see it as a sign of inconsistency.
Twitter suspended the automated account @ElonJet, which shared publicly available data to track the movements of Musk’s private jet, Dec. 14. The account remained suspended as of Dec. 19.
(Screenshots from Twitter.)
@ElonJet was one of several flight-tracking bot accounts run by Jack Sweeney, a 20-year-old college student. Initially, only @ElonJet was suspended among Sweeney’s accounts, but throughout the day Dec. 14, Sweeney’s personal account and several other automated, plane-tracking accounts he operated also were suspended.
A little after 7 p.m. Eastern Time Dec. 14, Musk announced a new Twitter policy.
"Any account doxxing real-time location info of anyone will be suspended, as it is a physical safety violation," Musk tweeted. "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."
(Screenshot from Twitter.)
Musk added in a subsequent tweet, "Last night, car carrying lil X in LA was followed by crazy stalker (thinking it was me), who later blocked car from moving & climbed onto hood. Legal action is being taken against Sweeney & organizations who supported harm to my family." One of Musk’s children is named X Æ A-Xii, and Musk calls him X.
Police told The Washington Post they have found no connection between the incident Musk tweeted about and the jet-tracking account.
On Dec. 15, Twitter suspended the accounts of more than half a dozen journalists, many of whom had reported on Twitter’s rule change that led to the suspension of the @ElonJet account. Twitter did not clearly explain the journalist suspensions, according to news reports.
That night, Musk claimed without evidence that the journalists’ accounts had "posted my exact real-time location, basically assassination coordinates, in (obvious) direct violation of Twitter terms of service."
Facing backlash about the suspensions, and following two Twitter polls by Musk asking whether the accounts should be reinstated, most of the journalists’ accounts were reinstated by Dec. 18. On Dec. 18, Musk said that moving forward, there would be "a vote for major policy changes."
(Screenshots from Twitter.)
Not long after that, he asked Twitter users to make another decision: "Should I step down as head of Twitter? I will abide by the results of this poll," he wrote.
In the end, 57.5% of the more than 17.5 million Twitter users who responded to the poll supported Musk stepping down. As of publishing, it remains unclear whether Musk will abide by the results.
Musk said, "My commitment to free speech extends even to not banning the account following my plane, even though that is a direct personal safety risk." It was a reference to the Twitter account @ElonJet.
Twitter suspended the @ElonJet account Dec. 14 and it remained suspended Dec. 19.
The account suspension was a complete change in position. So for now, we rate his position a Full Flop.
PolitiFact senior correspondent Louis Jacobson contributed to this report.
Elon Musk tweet, Nov. 6, 2022
Elon Musk tweet, Dec. 14, 2022
ElonJet twitter account, accessed Dec. 16, 2022
The Washington Post, Twitter changes rules over account tracking Elon Musk's jet, Dec. 14, 2022
The New York Times, Twitter suspends accounts of half a dozen journalists, Dec. 15, 2022
Time, Twitter suspends account that tracked Elon Musk's jet despite free speech pledge, Dec. 14, 2022
The New York Times, Elon Musk completes $44 billion deal to own Twitter, Oct. 27, 2022
Elon Musk tweet, March 5, 2022
Elon Musk tweet, Oct. 27, 2022
Elon Musk tweet, April 25, 2022
The Washington Post, Musk suspends journalists from Twitter, claims ‘assassination’ danger, Dec. 16, 2022
The Washington Post, Musk bans Twitter account tracking his jet, threatens to sue creator, Dec. 14, 2022
Reuters, Twitter suspends account tracking Elon Musk's jet, Dec. 14, 2022
Axios, Musk reinstates Trump's Twitter account after poll, Nov. 20, 2022
Axios, Twitter ditches communications, Nov. 10, 2022
The Verge, Elon Musk is putting Twitter at risk of billions in fines, warns company lawyer, Nov. 10, 2022
The Rolling Stone, Free speech champion Elon Musk bans jet tracker, vows ‘legal action,’ Dec. 15, 2022
The New York Times, Twitter suspends over 25 accounts that track billionaires’ private planes, Dec. 14, 2022
Elon Musk tweet, Dec. 15, 2022
The Washington Post, Musk blamed a Twitter account for an alleged stalker. Police see no link, Dec. 18, 2022
Elon Musk tweet, Dec. 16, 2022
Elon Musk tweet, Dec. 18, 2022
The New York Times, Musk faces growing anger over Twitter ban of journalists, Dec. 16, 2022
NPR, Elon Musk reinstates suspended journalists on Twitter after backlash, Dec. 18, 2022
NPR, Musk asks in poll if he should step down as Twitter CEO; users vote yes, Dec. 19, 2022
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