Everybody knows Twitter is basically the Wild West of the Internet and not a place where the things people say should be taken seriously.
That’s basically how Elon Musk’s attorneys are defending his controversial tweets aimed at a British rescue diver — the one Tesla’s chief executive described as a “pedo guy” after the diver questioned the efficacy of Elon’s plan some months back to help rescue the Thai boys soccer team stranded underwater in a cave. “Shocked by (the diver’s) indefensible and baseless attacks, Musk answered to defend himself and the efforts of SpaceX, Tesla and the Boring Company employees who had given up their days and nights to help find a solution,” reads a motion from Elon’s attorneys to dismiss the diver’s defamation lawsuit against him.
“Musk took to Twitter — a social networking website infamous for invective and hyperbole — to respond.”
The motion to dismiss goes on to argue that Elon’s 22 million followers on Twitter — as well as anyone who doesn’t follow him but who read the tweets — should have known they “were not intended to be statements of fact.” Setting aside the defensibility of that claim, it’s at any rate an inauspicious end to what’s been a tumultuous year for one of the tech industry’s leading visionaries. Elon finds himself back in the headlines for his boundary-pushing antics on Twitter, in other words, rather than the latest milestones out of Tesla, SpaceX or The Boring Company.
In this episode with the diver, Elon’s critics saw an inability for the businessman to stomach being told he’s wrong. The diver had given an interview to CNN in which he called Musk’s plan to rescue the soccer team effectively a “PR stunt.” That’s what set Elon off, whose tweets in question came a couple of days later.
Naturally, the diver’s attorney Lin Wood said Elon’s motion to dismiss the defamation suit doesn’t have any grounding in the law or reality.
“I entirely reject Mr. Musk’s frivolous contention that all statements published on Twitter or other social media are protected speech,” Wood said in a statement given to CNBC. “I am confident the trial court will likewise reject this fanciful position which if adopted would effectively prevent an individual from seeking redress for any and all false and defamatory attacks on reputation published on the Internet.”
Elon was sued by the diver in September for libel and slander, and he’s asking for at least $75,000 in damages.