Musk caused a buzz on Thursday when Twitter banned five tech journalists for posting links to a flight tracker, claiming they had “doxxed [his] exact location in real time.”
This led to an uproar from the press on Twitter, which slammed Musk for his decisions to remove accounts of journalists who had covered and been critical of him. Musk maintains that the accounts in question breached Twitter’s new policies against sharing real-time data about people’s locations.
What can be unclear is whether the posted information should be considered doxxing due to the term’s overuse in political discourse.
Doxxing is defined as revealing identifying information about an individual online, such as their real name, address, workplace, finances, or other personal information, according to the security firm Kaspersky.
Twitter has maintained a ban on doxxing for several years. The practice is “a breach of [a user’s] privacy and the Twitter Rules. Sharing private information can pose serious safety and security risks for those affected and can lead to physical, emotional, and financial hardship,” the company states. Twitter specifically defines doxxing as when a user posts a user’s home address, location information, identifying documents, public contact information, financial account info, and other elements of a public individual’s records. It also penalizes users for threatening to expose such information publicly, sharing information that would allow one to hack into the private record, or asking for a reward in exchange for such information.
The discussion of doxxing arose after Musk banned @elonjet, an account that tracked his jet. Twitter had removed @elonjet and several other jet-tracking bots from Twitter after updating its rules to provide for the suspension of accounts “dedicated to sharing someone’s live location.”
Musk also claimed that an unknown person was stalking his family and alleged that the publicly released flight data were “assassination coordinates” that could be used to try and attack him.
Twitter previously allowed Jack Sweeney, the college student who created @elonjet, to stay on the platform. This may have been partly due to Musk’s flight information being publicly available, but it has changed since. Musk took action in October to join a Federal Aviation Administration program that allowed him to fly anonymously with Sweeney’s help. Sweeney eventually figured out how to bypass the code and continued to post Musk’s flight data despite it being taken private.
Musk made a brief appearance at a Twitter Space to talk with journalists about the decision to ban journalist accounts, claiming that posting links to the data trackers was a form of doxxing. After being questioned, he quickly left the call, then shut down the group audio feature minutes after the call. Musk claims it was shut down due to a “legacy glitch.”