Elon, His Location, and Twitter Explained

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Elon Musk Getting Doxxed
Credit: Twitter

Another day, another slice of the Elon-drama cake ready to serve. Recently, Elon Musk, one of the world’s richest men who also acquired the social media site Twitter, has once again been making headlines. This time, Elon chose to ban a number of journalists from Twitter, some of which have since been unbanned, but what exactly is going on? Not to worry, because in this article, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about Elon, his location, and Twitter.

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Elon Musk Getting Doxxed

Elon Musk Getting Doxxed 2
Credit: Daniel Oberhaus

The latest controversy started with a Twitter account by the name of @ElonJet. As you might expect from the name, this account tracked Elon’s private jet, posting its location for the public.

The account was created by a college student, and fan of Musk, who managed to rely on some publicly available data alongside some creativity to, in essence, track Elon’s jet. Elon reportedly contacted the student to ask him to take the account down, but the two reportedly could not come to an amicable agreement to take the account down.

There’s some controversy about whether or not the account was using publicly available data to track Elon’s location, as the fact of the matter is still somewhat unclear. There is a good deal of publicly accessible information out there when it comes to the FAA and the Freedom of Information Act in the United States, and the general consensus is that it’s likely possible to track Elon’s jet relying on publicly available information, but it’s unconfirmed how the owner of the @ElonJet account himself is tracking Elon’s location.

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Accordingly, the account was eventually banned as per Twitter’s doxxing policy. If you aren’t familiar, doxxing generally refers to the intentional posting of someone’s location or real-life information, because this kind of practice often serves as encouragement to harass a particular person, most especially celebrities and influencers. In most places, doxxing itself isn’t a crime, and the information being posted in a dox may or may not be publicly accessible. In many cases, however, the mere publishing of already-accessible information may encourage harassment, which is why it’s usually against social media terms of service.

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Recently, Elon tweeted out how he and his family (namely a car carrying his son) were being stalked by a man following them in Los Angeles. No harm has come to Elon or his family, according to Elon, but as you might expect, if the allegations are true, Elon was none too happy about being followed. Naturally, soon after, @ElonJet was banned with Elon blaming the account for making his information accessible.

Importantly, it’s not clear if there’s a connection between Elon’s LA incident and the @ElonJet account, but nonetheless, the account was still banned. Following the ban, a series of journalists, some from mainstream outlets like CNN, who posted about Musk and the @ElonJet situation were also banned, once again because of Twitter’s doxxing policy.

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After this series of bans, Elon ran a couple of informal polls asking Twitter users if they wanted the accounts tied to tracking him unbanned. The response was pretty clear, with Twitter users voting to see these accounts unbanned. Since, a number of journalists have been unbanned, though not all, while the @ElonJet account is still gone. As you might expect, considering Elon is a fairly intense free speech advocate, this latest series of events has generated quite a bit of controversy with many claiming Elon is a hypocrite when it comes to speech that impacts him personally.

The Doxxing Situation Online

Elon Musk Getting Doxxed 3
Credit: Twitter

Outside of whether or not you support (or even like) Elon Musk, this latest controversy has begun a discussion about doxxing in general. It’s a complicated topic because of how much of a gray area it really can be.

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For example, real-life journalists can often report on things in such a manner that the subjects of their report may, in some way, be doxxed. Whether it’s discussing a certain public figure in a particular place, revealing the full name of someone, or anything else, in a lot of cases, traditional journalism can be called doxxing in the modern era.

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Then, there’s a gray area about whether or not doxxing needs to be intentional or malicious. For example, say you’re running a charity stream, and say you’re reading out donations and someone donates using their full legal name. Is revealing the name just giving credit to somebody kind enough to donate to charity, or is it doxxing?

Take the @ElonJet account, for example. Say the creator did so just as a test of their technical skills and to show people what’s actually possible, thinking it would be a cute little stunt unlikely to cause harm, because of how well-protected Elon would be and how tough it would be to track him down based off of the location of his jet. Is that doxxing?

And what about intentional, malicious doxxing done for what many consider to be a good and just reason? Say you’re in a domestic abuse situation, and as a last resort, you post on social media about the location and real full name of your abuser in an attempt to get yourself into a safer situation. Is that doxxing? Should that be punished?

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These gray areas are why doxxing, in a lot of places, isn’t itself a crime, because it’s tough to legislate the issue. Ultimately, mistakes can be made, and in other instances, doxxing may not even cause any harm. Though, there are certainly lots of instances where doxxing can and does cause harm.

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Many celebrities and public figures have to deal with their private information being leaked, and these leaks can and do enable people to harass them. Sometimes, it’s just a creepy guy following someone who gets picked up by the police and no real harm happens, but sometimes, people can be stalked for months, and sometimes, even worse things can happen.

Swatting, for example, is the most deadly form of dox. People on the internet will search for someone’s residence information, then they’ll make a call to the local police informing them that there’s a hostage situation, or something, going on at that residence, and the SWAT team will show up there. Since the SWAT team doesn’t know it’s a ‘prank’ they’ll be on high alert, and the person in question won’t know what’s going on, which is oftentimes a recipe for people getting killed, all thanks to a dox.

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While the situation with Elon Musk may not be as grave as that, it definitely serves as a reminder that we need to figure out, as societies, what is and isn’t okay online when it comes to the publishing of personal information.