Vernon Unsworth, the British cave diver, filed a defamation lawsuit in September 2018 in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California after Musk called him a “pedo man ” and made other statements insinuating he was a pedophile in a public attack on Twitter.
The Verge was the first to report the court verdict.
A Tesla spokesperson could not be immediately reached for comment
U.S. District Judge Stephen V. Wilson denied a motion to dismiss the case and instead scheduled a date for trial. The decision means that Unsworth’s situation.
Musk’s lawyers argued that announcements on the internet, and more specifically on unmoderated forums like Twitter are opinion, not fact. Defamation law doesn’t apply to insults or opinions. But Wilson rejected Musk’s debate, in part because of an email interaction he had with Buzzfeed reporter and ex-TechCrunch journalist Drew Olanoff .
“Considering the totality of the circumstances–such as the overall context of Defendant’s statements, the particular context of the statements, and the statements’ susceptibility of being proved true or false–a reasonable factfinder could easily conclude that Defendant’s statements, as stated in the complaint, implied assertions of objective fact,” Wilson wrote in the decision.
The lawsuit alleges that between July 15 and August 30, Musk occasionally used Twitter and emails to the media to publish false and defamatory accusations against Unsworth, such as accusations of pedophilia and child rape.
The first pedo man ” attack came after Unsworth gave a interview to the media stating Musk’s mini sub “had zero chance of working. ” The diving pro ended an interview segment by suggesting Musk should “stick his submarine where it hurts. ”
Musk lashed out on Twitter and insinuated that Unsworth was a pedophile. He later deleted the offending tweet and tried to backpedal — even offering an apology of sorts on Twitter. And it could all have ended there. But Musk dug it all up again during a discussion with Olanoff — once on Twitter. Olanoff had brought up the “pedo man ” assault as an example of Musk telling untruths.
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