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Nancy Pelosi’s flight, the most followed in the history of the site Flightradar24

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Some 2.9 million Internet users followed this seven-hour journey on the Flightradar24 site, with a peak of 708,000 people connected simultaneously when landing in Taipei.

The site’s stability suffered slightly, according to a blog post from Flightradar24, but everything was restored shortly after Nancy Pelosi’s arrival on Taiwanese soil.

This diplomatic trip has led to high tensions between the United States and China, which considers the island to be part of its territory. On Friday, the Chinese government ended its collaboration with the American government on several files, including that on climate change.

More and more flights tracked

The Nancy Pelosi getaway is the latest example of the growing interest of Internet users in tracking flights.

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny’s trip to Moscow received the attention of some 550,000 internet users in 2021 as he headed for jail.

The war in Ukraine has also generated traffic on Flightradar24. In particular, we could see the planes avoiding the country in February, or even carefully follow the US Air Force’s Global Hawk flight over the Black Sea in the midst of the Russian invasion.

In an interview with the newspaper The GuardianFlightradar24 communications director Ian Petchenik extolled the capabilities of the tracking tool: You have the opportunity to participate in the story in real time.

Celebrity thefts tracked

In recent weeks, celebrities have been singled out for overusing their private planes, according to environmental activists. The record of American singer Taylor Swift, whose plane has had some 170 flights since the start of the year according to an analysis by the marketing agency Yard, has been strongly criticized on social networks. She denied that she was not the only one using the plane.

Canadian singer Drake, whose plane flew 14 minutes, and American director Steven Spielberg, accused of flying for 28 minutes, were not spared on the web.

The data was collected through the CelebJets Twitter account, which tracks celebrity flights and automatically posts their whereabouts using a robot (bot).

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The origin of this Twitter account is a 19-year-old Canadian named Jack Sweeney. He had started his activities in June 2020 by following Elon Musk’s private plane. He had even offered him $5,000 to stop tracking him, judging that the account could affect his security. Sweeney, however, had asked for $50,000 in return, which he was denied.

To track these flights in real time, Jack Sweeney and the Flightradar24 site, for example, use public data from ADS-B trackers (automatic dependent broadcast monitoring), a cooperative surveillance system for air traffic control.

Jack Sweeney now has 30 Twitter accounts following sports stars, Meta boss Mark Zuckerberg, and Russian oligarchs.

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