Vernon Unsworth, the British cave diver, filed a defamation lawsuit in September 2018 at 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 at a public assault on Twitter.
The Verge was the first to report the court decision.
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 case.
Musk’s lawyers argued that statements on the internet, and more specifically on forums such as Twitter, are presumptively opinion, not fact. Defamation law doesn’t use to opinions or insults. But Wilson rejected Musk’s argument, in part due to an email interaction he had with BuzzFeed reporter and ex-TechCrunch journalist Drew Olanoff.
“Considering the totality of the circumstances–such as the general context of Defendant’s statements, the specific context of these 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, indicated assertions of objective fact,” Wilson wrote in the decision.
The lawsuit alleges that between July 15 and August 30, Musk periodically used Twitter and emails to the media to publish false and defamatory accusations against Unsworth, such as accusations of pedophilia and child rape.
The initial pedo man ” assault came after Unsworth gave a crucial interview saying Musk’s miniature sub “had absolutely no chance of working. ” The diving expert ended an interview section 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 have ended there. But Musk dug it all up again during a debate with Olanoff — once more on Twitter. Olanoff had brought up the “pedo man ” assault as an illustration of Musk telling untruths.
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