How It Works

Elon Musk ‘Pedophile’ Comment and the Murky, Outer Edge of Free Speech

Meet Vernon Unsworth, reports say that his knowledge of the cave systems was integral in helping rescue the lost Thai Football Team last week. The British immigrant to Thailand had these words for tech-billionaire Elon Musk who had initially wished to shoot a five-foot submarine down the cave to rescue the boys and their coach:

“He can stick his submarine where it hurts…it had no chance of working…he had no conception of what the cave system was like”. These strong words did not go unnoticed by the billionaire whose response shocked the world.

The now-deleted tweets read:

“Never saw this British expat guy who lives in Thailand (sus) at any point when we were in the caves. Only people in sight were the Thai navy/army guys, who were great…” – @elonmusk 15 July 3:56 pm

“You know what, don’t bother showing the video…sorry pedo guy, you reall didy ask for it”.– @elonmusk 15 July 4:11pm

Yes, you read that correctly the CEO of a publicly traded company, subtly, and then overtly called a man a pedophile for being a British national living in Thailand. While totally slanderous and probably actionable in a court of law (something that Unsworth is on the record for considering) it highlights a response all too common in our public discourse.

During the Common Sense Tour, we’ve often been asked, as an organization that defends the right to free speech, where we draw the line on objectionable speech. This, to me, is a clear instance of what surfaces on the murky, outer edges of free speech.

Musk threw out this baseless accusation, not in order to enhance the conversation that was taking place or to highlight his side of the story but to injure someone he disagreed with purely just to injure them. This nihilistic abuse of free speech should be completely condemned and I can’t imagine being upset if Unsworth receives a sizeable payout from the billionaire’s outrageous comments.

What do you think? Does free speech also include the right to assassinate someone’s character? Do you think Musk’s words come under character assassination? Join in on the debate on Twitter.

Muhammad Oleolo
Muhammad is a Student of Law at the University of Manchester and is pursuing practice in prosecuting white-collar crime. He is an English Tutor and likes to write about the cultural impact of art, politics, and sport. He avidly follows Rugby, Basketball, and football - to his continued frustration, he has been a devoted supporter of the Arsenal Football Team. Recently he has begun exploring how we might bridge the ideological gap between the West and Islam and Muslims.

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