Billionaire Elon Musk was taken to court by a cave explorer and financial adviser with decidedly less wealth than he has whom the Tesla founder
Billionaire Elon Musk was taken to court by a cave explorer and financial adviser with decidedly less wealth than he has whom the Tesla founder called a “pedo guy” on Twitter. Now Musk won that case and once again believes in humanity.
A jury took less than an hour on Friday to decide Musk’s tweet calling cave explorer Vernon Unsworth a “pedo guy” wasn’t actually defamation. Becasue of that, the jury said Musk wouldn’t owe Unsworth any damages.
According to Elizabeth Lopatto, a deputy editor at The Verge, Musk was pleased with the result. When he walked out of the courtroom, he told reporters he once again believes in humanity.
“My faith in humanity is restored,” he said.
The lawsuit stemmed the infamous “pedo guy” tweet Musk sent out after Unsworth participated in the rescue of a Thai soccer team trapped in a cave last year. Unsworth and other divers were able to rescue the team.
After the successful rescue, Unsworth criticized Musk’s “minisub,” which the billionaire deployed to the area in the event the divers couldn’t save the children. Unsworth called Musk’s efforts a “PR stunt” that had “absolutely no chance of working.” He also told Musk to “stick his sub where it hurts” — a comment that came up during the case.
In response, Musk tweeted the infamous “pedo guy” line. And although he eventually apologized for it and deleted the tweet, Unsworth argued that the damage was done, he was defamed, and owed $190 million in damages for it.
The case earned international attention, especially as it relates to how everyone (not just executives) use Twitter. Musk himself took the stand this week and refused to apologize, calling it an “off-the-cuff response” and an “insult,” not something that would rise to the level of defamation.
“As my mom said, ‘If somebody insults you, just let it go,'” Musk said during his testimony.
After the trial, CNBC correspondent Jane Wells learned from the foreman on the jury that the jury didn’t believe Unsworth proved five elements required to show defamation. When asked, however, which element Unsworth’s attorney couldn’t prove, the foreman said, “I can’t remember.”
But the case also pitted one of the world’s richest people (Musk himself said that he’s worth about $20 billion during the trial) with a 64-year-old financial adviser. It was the classic David vs Goliath story. Only this time, Goliath won. And going forward, there’s reason to believe that this case could set a precedent in determining what kind of speech on Twitter and other social networks is considered purely insult or rises to the level of defaming someone.
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