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You may remember last July the world’s attention was captured by news that a junior soccer team had become stuck in a Thai cave, as rain and flood waters blocked their escape. It was a heart-warming story of an international rescue team diligently tracking down the boys and staging a daring rescue, successfully freeing all the boys and their coach.
But the good news story was somewhat tainted after it became overshadowed by some tweets from Elon Musk calling one of the divers ‘pedo guy’.
Musk had weighed-in on the plight of the boys and he offered the use of a mini-submarine to help with the rescue efforts. But his offer was labelled a ‘PR stunt’ by British diver Vernon Unsworth, leading to the aforementioned slur. Musk then compounded the problem by adding “bet ya a signed dollar it’s true.”
Unsworth commented at the time that he was considering legal action for defamation, and following a court order submitted on Friday, US District Judge Stephen Wilson has refused Musk’s attempt to have the case dismissed.
Musk’s defence had asserted that ‘internet speech is unique’, effectively arguing that you can’t hold communications online to the same standard as spoken or printed words. This defence, which basically boils down to ‘he was only joking’, may have stood a better chance had Musk not followed up with his tweet saying “bet ya a signed dollar it’s true,” and emailing a Buzzfeed reporter telling them to “stop defending child rapists.”
Taken together, they allowed Judge Wilson to conclude "There is nothing about the context in which [Musk] made the statements...that would create doubt as to whether [Musk's] statements implied assertions of objective fact."
Wilson has set the court date for October 22.