Elon Musk said he wouldn't ban Twitter account tracking his jet. Weeks later, he suspended it.

Elon Musk

Statement: “My commitment to free speech extends even to not banning the account following my plane, even though that is a direct personal safety risk.”

"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."

Elon Musk
Elon Musk

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 might agree with a person’s shift on a stance while others might see it as a sign of inconsistency.

Twitter suspended account tracking Elon Musk’s private jet

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 Monday.

@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."

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 after 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."

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 this article's deadline, it remains unclear whether Musk will abide by the results.

Twitter did not respond to PolitiFact’s request for comment. News organizations have reported that the company no longer has a communications department.

Our ruling

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 Monday.

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.

This article originally appeared on Austin American-Statesman: PolitiFact: Elon Musk suspends Twitter account he said he wouldn't ban