Attention, new rule: Elon Musk prohibits sharing a location on Twitter

To justify the suspension of the account which shared in real time the history of the journeys of his private jet, Elon Musk announced a modification of the rules of Twitter. In the name of “individual safety,” one may be suspended for posting the location of a personality or object on Twitter. Who said “censorship”?

Can we invent rules on a whim when we claim several times a day to be the greatest defender of freedom of expression and that we assure that censorship destroys society? Elon Musk is a man full of contradictions.

After months of campaigning and defending some of society’s most radical positions, Elon Musk decided to abruptly ban the sharing of an individual’s real-time location on Twitter, to “limit the risk of violence”. The problem is that this definition is broad. If accounts that share the location of a plane are Elon Musk’s first target, since they annoy him personally, any photo of a celebrity could be interpreted as violating the rules of the social network.

Paradoxically, “the social network of freedom of expression” becomes the only one to firmly prohibit these practices, which are however banal and very often legal. Added to this is the question of moderation, which Elon Musk is usually not fond of. In short, Elon Musk has once again put himself in a hell of a story…

Sharing the location of an aircraft is not illegal

It all started on Dec. 14 when Elon Musk, after promising he wouldn’t touch accounts that track his private jet in the name of free speech, abruptly suspended ElonJets, an account run by developer Jack Sweeney. Surprisingly, Twitter told him he was breaking its rules of use. ElonJets does nothing but share screenshots of Elon Musk’s plane routes, which are public. Since all flights can be tracked in real-time, no one is spared. The identifier of Elon Musk’s private jet is known (as N628TS) and enter this code on a flight tracker site enough to be informed of its live location. ElonJets doesn’t break any laws, even though Elon Musk always hated it.

Obviously, the media took up the case (it must be said that Elon Musk tried for a long time to close this account, long before he wanted to buy Twitter). The billionaire was forced to react to the case and, suddenly, revealed the famous change he decided to introduce in the rules of Twitter: “Any account containing real-time location information will be suspended because it is a breach of physical security.” 

Elon Musk added that accounts sharing offline locations are not a problem for him. The ElonJet account was then reactivated… before being closed again.

An example of a “tracked” flight by Jack Sweeney Source: Instagram/ElonJet

Twitter censors link to external sites

Since then, the censorship of accounts sharing the location of a plane has gone even further. As some may have noticed, it is impossible to tweet a link to the Instagram and Facebook pages of the ElonJet account. On the other hand, you can easily share a link to the Flightradar24 site, one of the most famous for tracking a plane live. The ban is therefore well targeted (but to clear itself, Twitter has also deleted accounts following other planes, such as that of Jeff Bezos).

This is what happens when you tweet a link to ElonJet’s Instagram account. There is a sending bug.

In a thread on its security account, Twitter confirmed this policy change. Tweets communicating a person’s information will be deleted, while accounts dedicated to this practice will be suspended. A funny way of enforcing absolute freedom of expression, since sharing someone’s location is not limited to private jet owners.

Why did Elon Musk do this? In a series of tweets, the billionaire explains that his son was recently followed by a stranger in the car. He blames it on accounts like Jack Sweeney’s for facilitating stalking (the act of following someone against their will).

Elon Musk then had an amazing idea: broadcast a video of a said stalker to his 120 million subscribers… to launch a giant manhunt. A practice that he probably considers less dangerous than sharing the location of a plane in the sky. Unless he doesn’t realize the contradiction?

Does Elon Musk have the right to change the rules in this way? If nothing legally frames his decision, he technically does whatever he wants, since Twitter belongs to him. Still, tracking a plane will still be possible on all other platforms in the world. You know, the ones that Elon Musk accuses of censorship.


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