Elon Musk offers UCF student $5K to take down his Twitter account

Freshman Jack Sweeny built algorithm to track billionaire’s private jet

ORLANDO, Fla. – A University of Central Florida student is bargaining with Elon Musk after the teen created a Twitter bot that tracks the billionaire’s private jet.

Jack Sweeny, a freshman at UCF, said it was crazy when the Tesla founder and SpaceX CEO messaged him with a request he wasn’t expecting: to take down his Twitter account.

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“I knew like following the plane would reveal what business he is in,” said Sweeny.

Sweeny, 19, is the person behind the Twitter handle @ElonJet, an account that displays the flight information of Musk’s private jet.

“I mean it’s just interesting to see where he is going and what other business might not be available to the public,” Sweeny said.

Sweeny explained he created an algorithm to track the tech giant’s jet with data coming from companies that log flight data through a plane’s transponder.

“The bot takes action on landing and takeoff and states the location, state, country, and city,” he said. “Also creates an image of a map of that location and attaches it to the tweet. Also calculates an estimated flight time from takeoff to landing and puts the flight time in the landing tweet.”

The access to this information attracted fans, which helped Sweeny gain more than 100,000 followers and, to date, the account is still growing.

Sweeny said the billionaire himself messaged him, but not in a way he expected.

“He said ‘Could you take it down?’, He talked about ‘How does it even work?’ and called air traffic control primitive,” Sweeny said.

The conversation continued with Musk offering Sweeny $5,000 to shut it down, citing a security risk.

He also sent a message saying “I don’t love the idea of being shot by a nutcase,” but even after all of this, Sweeny said he’s not taking it down.

“Not really, I mean it hasn’t been that much of an issue, he has a security team,” Sweeny said.

The teen boldly counter-offered for $50,000.

Musk at first just wanted the teen to help with updating his security but did go quiet after having said “It doesn’t seem right to pay to shut this down.”

As Sweeny waits for a reply, he said he’ll continue to do what he loves.

“I might like, create a website for more tracking stuff and like other things because people seem pretty interested,” Sweeny said.


About the Author:

Brian Didlake joined the News 6 team as a reporter in March 2021.