Tesla CEO Elon Musk has previously been taken into court for tweeting that cave explorer Vernon Unsworth is a “paedophile,” according tomedia outlet The Verge. And on Friday, a jury in a Los Angeles court ruled that the content of “pedo guy” did not meet the legal standards for defamation. As a result, Musk is not liable.
The standard in the case is whether to denigrate others with falsehoods, which means Musk did not check whether what he said was true before he tweeted. The jury must prove that this is true, which is a lower standard than “actual malice”. In the end, however, the jury found Musk’s tweets to meet that standard.
“My faith in human ity has been restored,” Musk told reporters as he left the courtroom. “
Since Tuesday, the Los Angeles court has heard testimony from Unsworth, Musk and others about the tweets. Musk insisted that he regarded his tweets as insults, which were not defamatory. On Tuesday, he testified that Twitter is “a place where people are fighting.” Unsworth said on Wednesday that he considered the tweets to be allegations and that he felt “vilified” by them.
Unsworth assisted in the rescue effort after Thai youth football players and their coach were trapped in a cave in Chiang Rai, Thailand, for several days. Musk said at the time that he planned to provide a “mini-submarine” that could be used as a Plan B to rescue the boys – or if the divers’ plan to rescue them didn’t work. In an interview with CNN, Unsworth said he saw Musk’s involvement as a “PR stunt” and “no chance at all.”
Musk then tweeted about it after watching the clip “two or three times.” Musk testified that he did not know that Unsworth was involved in the rescue, assuming he was only a “special agent” living in Thailand. Musk tweeted: “You can’t believe paedophiles, you’re really looking for it. “These tweets were “clearly a rash response,” and Musk later deleted them and apologized.