- Elon Musk is fighting a defamation case against the cave diver Vernon Unsworth, who he referred to as “pedo guy” last year on Twitter.
- Musk’s lawyers have repeatedly argued that reasonable people would not take Musk’s insult seriously, partly because he broadcast it on Twitter.
- But Unsworth’s lawyers say Musk’s account can be taken seriously, and they gave his infamous “funding secured” tweet – which resulted in $US40 million in regulatory fines – as an example.
- Musk’s lawyers say the Tesla CEO’s Twitter account is filled with frivolous jokes, including tweets about being a Martian and arming people against the zombie apocalypse.
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Elon Musk is trying to use his most flippant tweets as evidence he didn’t defame the cave diver Vernon Unsworth when he called him “pedo guy” last year.
Musk’s lawyers have repeatedly argued that reasonable people would not interpret Musk’s insult as a factual statement about Unsworth. Last year they unsuccessfully tried to have the case dismissed on the grounds the Tesla CEO’s comments could not be considered defamation because his insults were “over-the-top” and made on the “rough-and-tumble” platform of Twitter.
But Unsworth’s lawyers have used Musk’s infamous “funding secured” tweet as an example of a case in which Musk’s tweets had been taken seriously. In August 2018, Musk tweeted he had funding secured to take Tesla private. He didn’t, and his market-moving comment resulted in $US40 million in fines from the US Securities and Exchange Commission.
Musk’s lawyers responded that the funding-secured tweet was irrelevant to the case and didn’t say much about how he used Twitter more generally.
“Picking one tweet from Mr. Musk’s over 9,000 and arguing that it demonstrates his use of Twitter to disseminate facts is highly misleading,” the filing said. The lawyers then gave several examples of other topics Musk had tweeted about:
- “An impending zombie apocalypse and a money-back guarantee on flamethrowers to fight them.”
- “Rumours that he is a Martian.”
- “Building a volcano lair like Dr. Evil, the villain in the ‘Austin Powers’ movies.”
- “Launching SpaceX rockets at night because they are easier to fake in the dark.”
Musk has also argued that he was not calling Unsworth a pedophile; he says “pedo guy” was a common insult used to describe a “creepy old man” when he was growing up in South Africa.