Elon Musk Wins Bizarre 'Pedo-Guy' Lawsuit

Graphic: Jason Torchinsky / Jalopnik
Graphic: Jason Torchinsky / Jalopnik

A jury found Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk not liable in the defamation lawsuit brought against him by British caver Vernon Unsworth, who Musk claimed was a “pedo guy” in a tweet last year.

The jury deliberated for a mere three hours.

Here’s more from CNBC:

“My faith in humanity is restored,” said Musk in court after the verdict was delivered. The jury deliberated for less than three hours in the case, which started earlier this week.

Unsworth brought the suit against Musk in September 2018, after the Tesla and SpaceX CEO had called him “sus” (suspicious) and a “pedo guy” on Twitter earlier that summer. Musk also characterized the spelunker as a “child rapist” in e-mails to Buzzfeed reporter Ryan Mac, and practically requested the lawsuit in August 2018 with a tweet that said, “Don’t you think it’s strange he hasn’t sued me?”

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Unsworth was one of the leads on a team that rescued 12 members of a soccer team and their coach from a Thailand cave last year. During the tense days the team was trapped in the caves, Musk publicly began development of a submersible which would be intended for use in carrying members of the trapped team out of the cave. Unsworth later claimed Musk’s submersible was a “PR stunt,” which led to Musk’s “pedo-guy” response on Twitter.

Illustration for article titled Elon Musk Wins Bizarre Pedo-Guy Lawsuit
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The case potentially sets a huge precedent, as it’s one of the first defamation lawsuits concerning a tweet against a private individual to ever go to trial, CNBC points out.

Musk and his defense team positioned his tweets against Unsworth as insults but not facts, and argued the situation was no more than an argument, despite Unsworth’s team pointing out Musk’s massive following of millions on the social media platform and the potential damage to the caver’s reputation.

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I’m honestly shocked a jury could come to Musk’s defense in this case. Libel is generally defined to be a written false statement of fact, and I fail to see how a powerful CEO with millions of Twitter followers publishing an accusation that an international hero is a pedophile, and claiming so again in emails to reporters, is somehow not a written false statement of fact.

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But Musk has gotten away with this one, though he did get scammed for $50,000 by a fake private investigator trying to dig up dirt on Unsworth in one of the more obvious scams I’ve seen recently. I can’t stop laughing at that part.

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DISCUSSION

Why are you shocked? Unsworthy made an insult first and provoked Musk into insulting back. You can’t provoke a person with an insult then sue them.

The other issue is you have to actually prove damages. Twitter followers or not, that isn’t damages. If anything, the media blowing the story out did more damage to Unsworthy than the twitter by keeping it in the news.

Last but not least, this is US, not Europe. Winning a libel suite is a lot harder here.