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article imageUK cave diver sues Tesla's Elon Musk for calling him a pedophile

By Ken Hanly     May 11, 2019 in World
Recent court filings show that Vernon Unsworth a British cave diver has filed a defamation suit against Tesla CEO Elon Musk for defamation. Among other issues, Musk repeatedly accused Unsworth of being a pedophile.
The case is scheduled to go on trial on October 22 according to court filings. Judge Stephen Wilson rejected Musk's claim that he was not making a real accusation. The court order filing lists the many statements and tweets made by Musk that form the basis for the suit. The order can be found here.
In rejecting Musk's claim Judge Wilson wrote: “A reasonable fact-finder could easily conclude that [Elon Musk’s] statements ... implied assertions of objective fact.”
The feud between Musk and Unsworth
The feud took place after the rescue of a soccer team trapped in a cave in Thailand. Musk outlined a plan to save the team members with a "kid-sized submarine" and Unsworth who helped with the rescue operation had criticized the plan after which Musk replied by calling Unsworth a "pedo guy". Part of the feud is related on the appended video. However, Musk did not just leave it as an insult elaborate in emails to Buzz-Feed that he bet a dollar he was a pedophile and then claimed that Unsworth had moved to Thailand for a child bride who was about 12 years old at the time.
Musk should have just kept to insults
Insults even hyperbolic ones or just opinions are not defamation. However, the judge wrote that Musk's case would be stronger if he had simply insulted Unsworth: "But Musk “did not call [Unsworth] a ‘pedo guy’ and leave it there,” writes Wilson. “Rather, he made follow-up statements indicating that he believed his statements to be true.” That included the emails to BuzzFeed, where Musk “purported to convey actual facts and even suggested that the BuzzFeed reporter call people in Thailand to confirm his narrative.”"
The judge's decision of course does not mean that Musk is guilty but that the case is strong enough to heard by a court. There will be a pre-trial conference on October the seventh.
This is not the first time Musk has been in trouble on social media
The US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has charged him with making misleading financial statements on Twitter. He was later accused of breaking an agreement on the issue. A new agreement was reached recently in which he must get many of his social media tweets vetted by Tesla lawyers before he can issue them as reported in a recent Digital Journal article.
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