By on April 18, 2022

When Tesla boss Elon Musk expressed a desire to buy Twitter last week, citing an absolutist vision of free speech as at least one reason behind his motivations, one had to wonder if his running afoul of the Securities and Exchange Commission over one of his tweets played a part.

To be sure, even if Twitter had no regulations moderating speech on the platform, Musk (or anyone in a similar position) could violate SEC regulations via tweet — a platform’s rules don’t protect someone from the Feds’ regs.

Still, Musk has shown a thin skin for criticism and it often appears that he desires to be able to say what he wants on Twitter without consequences. Consequences like having a federal judge rule that Musk knew certain infamous tweets about taking the company private having secured funding at $420 a share were misleading.

Tesla investors sued after the tweets hurt the company’s stock and lost them money. It’s a class-action suit and Musk and Tesla could be on the hook for billions in damages.

Lawyers for the shareholders are seeking a restraining order against Musk, to prevent him from speaking publicly about the tweets before the trial.

The shareholders have expressed concern that tweets from Musk could taint the jury pool. “[Musk] has used his fame and notoriety to sway public opinion in his favor, waging battle in the press having been defeated in the courtroom,” their lawyers wrote in the filing.

Obviously, this doesn’t mean Tesla and Musk have lost the lawsuit. It only means that U.S. District Court Judge Edward Chen believes Musk knew his tweet was “false and misleading” and “held that he recklessly made the statements with knowledge as to their falsity.”

As for Musk’s defense? First, his lawyer, Alex Spiro, claims Musk really was thinking about taking Tesla private in 2018 and had the financing to do so. Second: “free speech”.

“All that’s left some half decade later is random plaintiffs’ lawyers trying to make a buck and others trying to block that truth from coming to light, all to the detriment of free speech,” he said.

Here are the case specs, if you’re curious: In re Tesla Inc Securities Litigation, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California, No. 18-04865.

As for this author, I cannot pretend to know if Musk knowingly lied for whatever reason (including a poorly received attempt at humor) or if he really was sincere about going private. I do think, however, that “free speech” doesn’t necessarily apply when your words can move markets and possibly violate SEC regulations.

Actions, consequences, et cetera.

[Image: Naresh111/Shutterstock.com]

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48 Comments on “Judge Rules Against Elon Musk in Tweet Case...”


  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Yeah, “free speech” isn’t a defense for breaking the law.

  • avatar
    kcflyer

    Good luck Elon. You are battling very powerful forces. Nobody on the left wants a level playing field in the media. It would destroy them.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      Meanwhile, Parler’s founder was banned from Parler.

      https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/ryanmac/parler-bans-former-ceo

      Don’t give me this “left wing” song and dance…

      And if you think Elon Musk is Mr. Free Speech, well…good luck with that.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        “if you think Elon Musk is Mr. Free Speech, well…good luck with that.”

        Well Twitter is certainly not about free speech, so why not Musk even if things remain the status quo?

        • 0 avatar
          FreedMike

          Of course they’re not about free speech – they’re about making money. Free speech is getting on a soapbox on a street corner, or putting up signs in your front lawn, or having a protest. None of those are moneymakers.

          Twitter’s going to do what makes it the most money, whether the owners are the shareholders or Elon Musk himself. But if you think Musk is going to be a “good steward”, let’s see what happens when people start saying nasty things about Tesla or Musk. My guess is “hell no.”

          • 0 avatar
            thornmark

            if you knew anything you’d know that twitter is not about making money – it’s about control of speech – and the current board makes that clear because they own almost none of the stock

            twitter doesn’t really have much of a money making model – especially when it bans popular content for purely political reasons

            if the board cared about shareholders making a profit it would allow a vote on Musk’s offer

          • 0 avatar
            EBFlex

            “if you knew anything you’d know that twitter is not about making money – it’s about control of speech – and the current board makes that clear because they own almost none of the stock”

            Yep. Twitter severely influenced the last election. Clearly they need to be regulated.

            If Twitter was about “making money” (which is so absurd), they would not have banned President Trump. He was the reason their stock price exploded in March/April 2020.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Good points.

        • 0 avatar
          Old_WRX

          Twitter is about furtherance of left wing globalism. “Free” speech is tolerated when it leans to leftist extremes, but “fact checked” into the memory hole when it leans the other way. For the theory behind this see Herbert Marcuse’s “Oppressive Tolerance.” Twitter is a manifestation of Marcuse’s (egregious) vision.

      • 0 avatar
        Art Vandelay

        Why do you care so much about what Elon does with his money?

      • 0 avatar
        Art Vandelay

        The 8 people on Parler will be very upset I am sure. I do think Musk is better on that front than most of big tech which bends the knee to the CCP every chance it gets

    • 0 avatar
      Imagefont

      I’m sure Musk is all about free speech. His free speech, that is, but not necessarily yours. And yes – say something negative about Tesla – and how about something that’s not even true – and you’ll get banned in a hurry – you’d get “cancelled”. According to all these free speech experts, free speech on a private platform with terms of service you must agree to in order to be hosted, means being able to spew hate speech and blatant lies and spread false and misleading information. No such freedom exists, especially on someone else’s platform. Get your own platform if you want to tell lies, no one is stopping you.

      • 0 avatar
        thornmark

        >> means being able to spew hate speech and blatant lies and spread false and misleading information. <<

        seems twitter allows all of that if you are a Dem – four years of lies were allowed to try to destroy a candidacy and presidency – the controlled media can never explain away the Russia collusion hoax and the biden laptop censorship by the likes of twitter and other organs of controlled news

        because of what the Dems did, trust in the MSM is at record lows

        what Musk is doing shines a spotlight on them and the roaches hate that

      • 0 avatar
        EBFlex

        “I’m sure Musk is all about free speech. His free speech, that is, but not necessarily yours.”

        This is called projection. Musk is not for limiting anyones speech. He has never limited anyones speech. Twitter limits speech to drastically influence an election and limits speech that it does not agree with. That’s what needs to be stopped and Musk is the African American immigrant to do it.

        Anyone against Musk is simply a racist.

        • 0 avatar
          Imagefont

          Flex, you really need to give examples, because I don’t think you can. I realize this site is a have for Nazi lovers like yourself…. Twitter has clear terms of service and Trump was banned – finally – for completely legitimate reasons. LIKE INCITING VIOLENCE ANS TRYING TO STEAL AN ELECTION WITH NOTHING BUT LIES.

          • 0 avatar
            Art Vandelay

            Do you have any proof that he is a Nazi? Really cheapens the whole sending 11 million people to the gas chamber bit when you apply the word to people that make you sad on the internet.

          • 0 avatar
            EBFlex

            Wow you are really bad at this.

            -You say I need to provide examples but then don’t say examples of what.

            -Then you call me a Nazi lover and, hypocritically, don’t provide any examples.

            -Trump never invited violence. He encouraged people to exercise their right to protest. If the libs want to call the BLM riots “protests”, Jan 6 was a church group meeting. It was a couple hours of people getting rowdy.

            -Twitter, the platform you are defending, heavily influenced the election against President Trump.

          • 0 avatar
            EBFlex

            “Do you have any proof that he is a Nazi? Really cheapens the whole sending 11 million people to the gas chamber bit when you apply the word to people that make you sad on the internet.“

            It’s exactly like when they use the term “racist”. They believe everything is racist. Math is racist.

            So when everything is racist, nothing is racist. And the word loses meaning. However your assessment is spot on. Clearly I made him sad and he felt the need to lash out and have another tantrum.

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            @Imagefont:

            Nazi lovers? Relax, my man…

      • 0 avatar
        Art Vandelay

        Got a source or example of any of that @Imagefront? Of course you dont.

      • 0 avatar
        Art Vandelay

        @Imagefront quit complaining then. Musk is getting his own platform as you suggest lol.

      • 0 avatar
        1337cr3w

        “means being able to spew hate speech and blatant lies and spread false and misleading information. No such freedom exists”

        Actually it does exist in several places. And it should

    • 0 avatar
      Ol Shel

      Nobody is able to tell us what facts are being banned from Twitter. What Musk and the the right wing want is to be able to spread false propaganda, to lie. Trump and his followers showed us that. We’ve heard tens of thousands of false claims of a stolen election and massive election fraud, but still, over a year later, no facts to back up the claims.

      Musk is a high-functioning man whose mental health is steadily declining. It happens to all super-rich narcissists. Everyone around them is afraid to tell them no, so they lose grip on reality. Being obsessed with wealth hoarding doesn’t help either.

      Beware hitching your wagons to the Mentally Illionaire.

      • 0 avatar
        EBFlex

        “Nobody is able to tell us what facts are being banned from Twitter. What Musk and the the right wing want is to be able to spread false propaganda, to lie.”

        Pretty impressive to have two massive lies that cannot be backed up with anything resembling a fact in the first two sentences of your post.

      • 0 avatar
        Art Vandelay

        He’s mentally deficient in spite of revolutionizing not one, but 2 industries. What’s that make you ol’Shel…something akin to the primordial ooze before life started?

        You don’t like his politics and you envy his wealth. Just own it man.

  • avatar

    For whatever reason I am reminded of a line from a tune the Neville Bros. did, and I quote “It’s freedom of speech just as long as you don’t say too much.” Not claiming it applies in this instance as Mike pointed out.

  • avatar
    EBFlex

    This is very typical of Brandon’s administration. Go after a prominent, successful African American immigrant. The racism here is astounding.

    This is simply a bid to shut Elon up. They have no interest in losing Twitter which is nothing more than the biggest mouthpiece for the state. Liberals know if the playing field is level, they don’t stand a chance.

  • avatar
    ajla

    Elon creates a real Monkey’s Paw situation for political folks.

  • avatar
    jkross22

    I’ve recently explored the platform and Twitter brings out the worst impulses in damn near everyone who posts. Musk is no exception. The irony of him wanting to fix Twitter.

    It’s like watching a House of Cards episode knowing that there are no good people in the story. Although Musk clearly is less bad than the loonies running the place now.

    • 0 avatar
      EBFlex

      “Although Musk clearly is less bad than the loonies running the place now.”

      Musk is very benign on Twitter.

      The people running Twitter now suppress scientific based speech and works to influence elections. They are not even close to being the same.

      • 0 avatar
        mcs

        @”The people running Twitter now suppress scientific based speech and works to influence elections. They are not even close to being the same.”

        They don’t. As usual, you’re totally out of touch with reality and have no clue as to what scientific-based speech is.

        • 0 avatar
          EBFlex

          “ They don’t. As usual, you’re totally out of touch with reality and have no clue as to what scientific-based speech is.”

          They suppress any speech that goes against the liberal narrative. They suppressed speech that went against the Covid narrative. It’s clear as day. They wouldn’t even let people ask reasonable questions.

          You can continue to keep your head buried in the sand but that’s reality.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    “citing an absolutist vision of free speech”

    Yes; a common myth is that free speech should be – or is – unregulated. For example, libel and slander are illegal forms of speech.

    • 0 avatar
      Art Vandelay

      His version is no more twisted than the big tech types tat all bow at the alter of China. Honestly it is his money and if he buys it then as you have pointed out, it is a private platform which he can do whatever he wants with.

      It is funny to watch the left hate on the guy that has almost singlehandedly made EV’s viable though. Guess all that climate change stuff isn’t as important as one’s political sensibilities.

      • 0 avatar
        kcflyer

        “Guess all that climate change stuff isn’t as important as one’s political sensibilities.”

        Never was Art, never will be. That’s how we went from mankind is causing an ice age to mankind is causing global warming to no matter what happens to climate it is bad and it is caused by men and women who drive cars or heat their homes. It’s how we went from EV’s are going to save the planet by everyone switching from ICE vehicles to only rich people get to drive. The poor can just stay home and starve or freeze.

      • 0 avatar
        EBFlex

        “ It is funny to watch the left hate on the guy that has almost singlehandedly made EV’s viable though. Guess all that climate change stuff isn’t as important as one’s political sensibilities.”

        The left fears free speech. They don’t want individual thought. They thrive in a group think environment.

        So called global warming is not as important as controlling speech.

        The fact an African American immigrant wants to buy Twitter is ignored because in this instance, race doesn’t matter (it also shows how race is just about skin color to the left).

        Suppressing reasonable questions about Covid and calling out the lies and deceit is suppressed, yet the Taliban and members of the Iranian government can post whatever they want.

        Much like Covid, it’s all about control. Nothing more

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      @SCE:

      Quibbling a bit here. Slander and libel are not the best examples, as they’re not illegal per se – they’re civil violations, assuming the injured party wants to sue. You can’t be put in jail for libel or slander.

      But there are laws on the books that carry criminal penalties – stuff like exhorting a crowd to act violently, or calling publicly for the overthrow of the government by arms. And that stuff should definitely be illegal.

      I’d say the most common example of the limits of free speech – and the one that best fits this story – is that your property rights will override my free speech rights 100% of the time. Put differently: I can’t mount a soapbox on your property and speechify away unless you’re OK with it. That’s how an entity like Twitter – or this website – can “regulate” what’s said using their platforms.

      So, to your point, yes, the right to free speech does have limits.

  • avatar
    SoCalMikester

    i say i buy stonk. price goes up. i say j/k, stonk goes down. im just a lil aspie stinker, aint i? gottaloveme!

  • avatar
    jwee

    @EBFlex
    “This is called projection. Musk is not for limiting anyones speech. He has never limited anyones speech.”

    Musk blocked Robert Reich from his Twitter feed after he criticized Musk for how he treated his Tesla workers.

    As Reich explained from a week ago…

    https://www.eurasiareview.com/12042022-robert-reich-why-elon-musk-has-blocked-me-on-twitter-and-now-owns-the-joint-oped/

  • avatar
    jwee

    @EBFlex
    “This is called projection. Musk is not for limiting anyones speech. He has never limited anyones speech.”

    Musk blocked Robert Reich from his Twitter feed after he criticized Musk for how he treated his Tesla workers.

    As Reich explained from a week ago…

    https://www.eurasiareview.com/12042022-robert-reich-why-elon-musk-has-blocked-me-on-twitter-and-now-owns-the-joint-oped/

  • avatar
    jwee

    Perhaps I am wrong, but when someone says “The sky is never red” and then you show them a sunset, it is not a pivot. The pivot is the person shifting the argument, trying to claim that they never said what they clearly.

    My good chap, you stated that Musk *never* limited anyones speech. Your exact words were:

    “Musk is not for limiting anyones speech. He has never limited anyones speech.”

    I cannot know what Musk is for or against, nor can you, but clearly he limited one person’s speech, Reich’s on Musk’s twitter feed. Reich cannot post on Musk’s feed. Thus your statement about “never limiting anyones speech” is inaccurate. The empty set is not longer empty when it contains even a single object.

    Sure, Reich can stand on some other soapbox a blabber all he wants, but Musk specifically limited Reich’s speech, which for a free speech advocate who presumably is “not for limiting anyones speech” is a jolly poor show.

    • 0 avatar
      Art Vandelay

      Anytime someone on the right gets banned you get the “it’s a private platform” argument. So if Musk wants to buy up a bunch of said private platform and ban folks then they really don’t have a leg to stand on. Robert Reich is free to start his own platform. Isn’t that how the argument usually goes?

    • 0 avatar
      EBFlex

      “Perhaps I am wrong, but when someone says “The sky is never red” and then you show them a sunset, it is not a pivot. The pivot is the person shifting the argument, trying to claim that they never said what they clearly.”

      Not analogous in the least.

      That’s like saying if someone doesn’t answer the phone, they are limiting the calling person’s speech.

      I will stand by my claim, Musk has never limited someone’s speech. You can use any sort of pretzel logic to try and disprove my assertion, but Mush has never limited anyone’s ability to speak.

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