Elon Musk, the outspoken CEO and founder of Tesla and a number of other smaller tech-based companies once again find himself in some legal hot water. It all stems from a series of tweets that Musk allegedly posted on his Twitter account. The subject of the tweets, a man that was instrumental in helping to save the 12 young boys who were trapped for many days in a cave in Thailand, a British cave diver named Vernon Unsworth.
The tweets were filled with opinionated speech, however, Mr. Unsworth took offense to be referred to as a “Pedo” (for clarification, he meant pedophile). Needless to say, when the whole situation involving the boys and their eventual rescue from the underwater cavern, Mr. Unsworth decided to get back at billionaire Elon Musk be filing an anti-defamation lawsuit against him.
While most of the time, people realize that posts on social media, all be it quite graphic in nature is mostly hyperbole and not really meant as statements of fact. However, in this case, Vernon Unsworth decided that he wanted to make an example of what can be considered over the top hateful speech.
When is free speech not really free?
This case will bring up a very delicate matter in which a Federal judge in Los Angeles, California decided that there was enough merit to allow the case to proceed to trial. However, as many knows, this does not immediately say that Mr. Unsworth will actually win the case, as defamation is extremely hard to prove. One of the main reasons is that you must be able to prove intent to injure and that in fact that you were injured by the content of the speech in question.
Now, you may be wondering why a lawsuit such as this can be allowed to go to trial when we as Americans have the right to “Free Speech”. That, of course, is a true statement, however, you are not immune to any consequences that arise from your exercising your right to free speech. In this case, using hurtful language that can be damaging to a person reputation can be grounds for a personal injury case.
While there were no crimes committed by Elon Musk from his tweets, they could, however, cost him a considerable amount of money from a civil court trial.
Not his first rodeo
As it turns out this is not the first time that tweets from Musks Twitter account have got him into trouble. Most recently, he drew the attention of the Securities and Exchange Commission stemming from another series of tweets. These tweets involve some circumstances stemming from his company, Tesla. In the tweets, he made some claims that the commission had a serious problem with and subsequently slapped him with a judgment that ultimately cost Mr. Musk to the tune of $20 million.
This just goes to show you that, while you are free to say what you want in the US, you still have to be careful what you say and who you direct your speech at. The Internet is a very dangerous place, and simply saying you’re sorry, may not, in fact, be good enough.