Teen Asks Elon Musk For 50k to Delete Twitter Bot

Elon+Musk

via BBC

Elon Musk

Back in June of 2020, Jack Sweeney, a nineteen-year-old freshman studying at the University of Central Florida, wrote a program that tracked the flights of billionaire Elon Musk. Shortly after, he also created a Twitter bot that auto-published the data, and within only a few months, the account gained hundreds of thousands of followers. It wasn’t long until the billionaire himself found out and contacted the teen, offering him five thousand dollars to take the account down. Instead of accepting the offer, Sweeney raised the price up to fifty thousand dollars. Persuaded by popular demand, he also used the same code to track flights of other billionaires. 

The teen used a website in his program, known as ADS-B Exchange. The website used was designed to monitor data of every federally regulated aircraft, such as location, speed, and altitude. His code was written to source only the data of Elon Musk’s aircraft. He is now tracking 127 different jets that belong to numerous billionaires, such as Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, and even former president Donald Trump. All the data appears on sixteen different Twitter accounts, but the one that auto publishes the data of Elon Musk’s jet (@ElonJet) still remains the most popular.

Sweeney stated that he could “probably make some sort of business out of this” since he could ask other billionaires for the same offer he gave Musk. But Musk declined his offer, saying that it “didn’t feel right to shut the [account] down.” He then proceeded to block Sweeney on Twitter. Inevitably, security concerns did arise, causing Musk to say that he “didn’t love the idea of being shot by a nutcase.” Sweeney then explained that Musk does not pass through open crowds before getting on a jet. He states, “I think the concerns are valid. But I’ve seen him go to BOA Steakhouse in Los Angeles. There are more people there than at the airports [he uses].”

The project arose from Sweeney’s own personal interests in aviation, computer science, and Musk. The sudden growth of his Twitter bot had caught him by surprise, and he said that “I always thought people who like Tesla or the whole Elon community on Twitter would be interested. But now, it’s really gone everywhere”. Although Sweeney’s program runs itself from day to day, he says that he will continue to add more aircrafts to track and improve its algorithms overall. Until Musk or other aircraft owners are willing to pay him his desired funds, the project will likely keep on expanding.