When Protocol published a piece on one of his Twitter bots during this week, 19-year-old Jack Sweeney gained internet fame. ElonJet, a tracker that tweets when Elon Musk’s private plane takes off and lands, is maintained by the college student. Sweeney has a number of similar bots that track the private jets of celebs like Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos using publicly available air traffic data. The ElonJet account, on the other hand, is Sweeney’s most renowned creation, with 180,000 followers and counting. Elon Musk himself was attracted to the bot because of its popularity.
Elon Musk approached Sweeney about ElonJet last October. “Are you able to take this down?” According to Protocol, he stated that it is a security risk. Musk offered Sweeney $5,000 to erase the account and prevent “mad people” from discovering his whereabouts. Sweeney countered with a counteroffer. “Would it be possible to increase that to $50,000?” It would be a big help in college and would even allow me to buy a car, probably a Model 3.”
Musk said he’d think about it, but the two haven’t communicated since. Sweeney told Protocol at the time that Musk’s ghosting didn’t disturb him. ElonJet had educated him on how to code, and he had secured a part-time job with UberJets as a result of his work there. He also got to have a talk with one of his idols as a self-proclaimed fan.
The adolescent now appears to have altered his mind. In a new interview with Business Insider, he said he planned to make Musk’s offer public when the billionaire seemed to lose interest in working out a deal. “He went the opposite way as me, so why wouldn’t I do the same?” he wondered to the publication. “I’ve put a lot of time and effort into this, and $5,000 is insufficient,” Sweeney said. He told Business Insider that the initial offer wouldn’t be enough to compensate for the “fun” he’s had developing the bot.
Musk does not appear to be interested in negotiating with Sweeney. Following their initial meeting, the Tesla and SpaceX CEO used some of Sweeney’s technical recommendations to make his plane more difficult to track. Musk is also said to have told Sweeney at the time that it didn’t “feel right” to pay to shut down the company. He most likely has a valid point.