A 19-year-old who was offered $5,000 by Elon Musk to shut down a Twitter account tracking the billionaire’s jet told Insider he refused the offer because it wasn’t enough to replace the satisfaction he gets from running the account.
Protocol was the first to report that Jack Sweeney had been approached by Musk via private messages on Twitter. The DMs, a screenshot of which Sweeney shared with Insider, showed Musk asked him to take down the Elon Musk’s Jet Twitter account, saying it was a “security risk.”
Musk tweeted earlier this month, saying that social-media accounts discussing his whereabouts were “becoming a security issue.”
In the Twitter conversation viewed by Insider, Sweeney discussed with Musk how his bots are able to track the jet and gave technical advice on how the billionaire could potentially make his jet less trackable.
“How about $5k for this account and generally helping make it harder for crazy people to track me?” Musk asked.
Sweeney responded: “Sounds doable, account and all my help. Any chance to up that to $50K?”
The 19-year-old cited college funding and told the billionaire the money could go towards buying a Tesla Model 3.
“I’ve done a lot of work on this and 5k is not enough,” Sweeney said in an interview with Insider. He added $5,000 wasn’t enough to replace “the fun I have in this, working on it.”
In the messages viewed by Insider, Musk said he would think about Sweeney’s counter-offer, then later said “doesn’t feel right to pay to shut this down.”
Musk did not respond when contacted for comment by Insider.
Sweeney told Insider Musk appears to have implemented some of his technical advice, using a blocking system that changes his jet’s identifier making it harder to track.
“I just have to work around it,” Sweeney said.
Sweeney told Insider he had decided to go public with Musk’s offer because the billionaire had lost interest in a deal.
“He went the opposite way of me, so why wouldn’t I go the opposite way of him?” he said.
Sweeney started Elon Musk’s Jet Twitter account in June 2020. The account uses bots to scrape publicly available air traffic data, alerting followers to the movements of Musk’s private jet. He said he had been working on the technology behind the account a few months before he launched it as a lockdown project.
Sweeney said he had the idea because he was a fan of Musk’s. “I knew he had the jet, and I just knew it would reveal what business is going on and where he is going and stuff,” he said.
Sweeney said his father works aviation, sparking an interest in planes. “I had the apps where you can track planes and stuff,” Sweeney said, adding “I kind of thought they were cool.”
While at college, Sweeney said he has a part-time job working for a company called UberJets, where he builds a platform to help track chartered flights so the company can find clients cheaper seats. He added that his work on the Elon Musk’s Jet Twitter account is on his GitHub, meaning he can showcase it to employers.