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Elon Musk wants diver Vern Unsworth’s defamation lawsuit dismissed, says his ‘over-the-top insults’ weren’t serious

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elon muskElon Musk.Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press

  • Elon Musk has filed a motion to dismiss the defamation allegation brought by British cave diver Vern Unsworth.
  • Unsworth is suing Musk after the Tesla CEO baselessly called him a pedophile.
  • Musk’s lawyers argue that his “over-the-top insults” were opinion, not factual statements, and should be protected by free speech laws.

Elon Musk would really like everyone to just forget about that whole ‘pedo’ thing.

Lawyers for the Tesla CEO have filed a motion to dismiss the defamation claim brought by Vern Unsworth, the British cave diver baselessly described by Musk as a “pedo guy.”

We first heard of the legal update on Thursday via BuzzFeed reporter Ryan Mac.

The billionaire CEO’s attempt to dismiss the claim hinges on the arguments that Unsworth attacked Musk first, that Musk made his attacks on a social media platform known for “hyperbole”, and that Musk’s remarks were opinion and not statements of fact.

Musk’s lawyers wrote in a filing to a California court: “[The] reasonable reader would not have believed that Musk — without ever having met Unsworth, in the midst of a schoolyard spat on social media, and from 8,000 miles afar — was conveying that he was in possession of private knowledge that Unsworth was sexually attracted to children or engaged with sex acts with children.”

Unsworth.JPGBritish caver Vernon Unsworth, who is suing Elon Musk for libel.Screenshot/ 7 News

They described Twitter, where Musk first made his insults, as a “rough-and-tumble” platform known for “invective and hyperbole.” Most readers, they claimed, don’t necessarily expect everything they read on social media to be factually correct.

And they claimed Musk’s statements were “imaginative attacks” which were protected by US free speech laws. Expressions of opinion are protected under Californian law.

The lawyers wrote: “The more colourful the invective, the more likely the reader is to understand that it is opinion.”

Business Insider has contacted Unsworth’s legal representatives in the US and the UK for comment.

Musk’s feud with the British cave diver began in July

Vern Unsworth is one of the cave divers who helped in the effort this summer to rescue 12 Thai boys and their football coach from a network of caves in Thailand, where they had been stranded thanks to floodwater.

thai cave rescue laughsThe 12 soccer players and their coach react as they explain their experience in the cave during their news conference in the northern province of Chiang Rai, Thailand, July 18, 2018.REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun

About a week after the boys went missing, Musk stated on Twitter that he was keen to help in the rescue attempt. He subsequently flew to Thailand with engineers from his company SpaceX to offer up a mini-submarine as a rescue vehicle. Ultimately, the head of the rescue mission described the mini-submarine as “not practical”, and the boys were successfully rescued by diverse guiding them through the cave network.

After the rescue, Unsworth appeared on CNN and dismissed Elon Musk’s mini-submarine, stating that the Tesla CEO could “stick his submarine where it hurts.” He criticised the plan as a PR stunt.

This prompted Musk to describe Unsworth a “pedo guy” baselessly on Twitter. He later apologised and deleted the original tweet, but then revived the feud in August by asking why Unsworth hadn’t sued him yet. He then doubled down on his original pedophile comments in an email to BuzzFeed, suggesting Unsworth was a “child rapist”, again without offering proof.

Unsworth then sued for libel.

You can read Musk’s motion to dismiss here:

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A big test of reusable packaging for groceries comes to Canada

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An online store has launched in Ontario selling groceries and household items from Loblaws in containers it will take back and refill — a test of whether Canadian consumers are ready to change their habits. Industry-watchers say it is breaking ground for reusable packaging.

The store, called Loop, launched in Canada on Feb. 1, in partnership with supermarket giant Loblaws, and offers items like milk, oats, ice cream and toothpaste for delivery in most of Ontario. Loop is already operating in the continental U.S., the U.K and France. 

Included so far are some products from well-known brands such as PC sauces and oils, Häagen-Dazs ice cream, Heinz ketchup, Chipits chocolate chips and Ocean Spray cranberries. 

“The goal is really validating that this is something the Canadian public is interested in,” said Tom Szaky, founder and CEO of Loop and its parent company TerraCycle.

Unlike existing small no-waste retailers, they want to offer “your favourite product at your favourite retailer in a reusable and convenient manner.”

The involvement of a huge retailer makes the launch notable in terms of scale and who it will reach, said Tima Bansal, Canada Research Chair in business sustainability at Western University in London, Ont. 

“I think it’s at the scale that’s needed to create the change in the community in Canada more generally,” she said.

How it works for customers

Szaky likens Loop to the reusable bottle system for beer in Canada “but expanding it to any product that wants to play in the [North American] ecosystem.”

The ultimate goal, he said, is to give people a greener way to consume that limits the amount of mining and farming needed to produce packaging.

“This allows us to greatly reduce the need to extract new materials, which is the biggest drain on our environment.

Loopstore.ca currently lists just 98 products, although many are sold out or “coming soon.” 

As with other online grocery stores, customers fill their virtual shopping cart, but in addition to the cost of the item itself, they pay a deposit for its container. That can range from 50 cents for glass President’s Choice salsa jars like the ones that are normally at the supermarket to $5 for a stainless steel Häagen-Dazs ice cream tub. 

The items are delivered to a customer’s home by courier FedEx for a $25 fee, although the fee is waived for orders over $50.

Once you’ve spooned out all the salsa or ice cream or squeezed out all the toothpaste, the container doesn’t go in the recycling bin. Instead, you toss them into the tote bag they came in — even if they’re dented or damaged — and they get picked up.

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This wearable device beeps when workers get too close to each other

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It’s a device that emits a high-pitched beep, buzzes and lights up if your coworker steps too close.

While some introverts would have bought this device before the pandemic to stave off chatty colleagues near the coffee machine, ZeroKey designed the product with a more important purpose — helping employees physically distance to reduce the risk of spreading coronavirus. 

The Calgary tech company’s “Safe Space” device looks like a small plastic badge that can be worn on a wrist or clipped to a shirt pocket or belt. 

“Our products, in a nutshell, localize or figure out where things are in 3D space and our big claim to fame is we do it very precisely, more precisely than anyone else in the world,” said Matt Lowe, co-founder and CEO of ZeroKey.

The company says its location-tracking technology passively monitors the distance between each device and is accurate down to 1.5 millimetres. The distance on devices can be set — so if, say, science determines three metres apart is actually safer that two, that can be tweaked. 

Lowe says the company came from humble beginnings — he and a co-founder, working out of a room in his house. The company has grown from two to 30 employees and has more openings it’s looking to fill.

Inspired by sci-fi

Their inspiration comes, as so many technological innovations have, from sci-fi. 

Lowe recalls watching Minority Report, and being transfixed with the gesture-based user interface Tom Cruise’s character operates. 

“Wouldn’t it be awesome if we had an interface that was more in tune with how humans operate naturally with their hands. So if you could just walk up to a new piece of technology … and just immediately be proficient,” he said. 

But applying that tech to the COVID-19 era wasn’t something the company had anticipated.

Lowe said some of the company’s clients in the manufacturing industry approached ZeroKey with a request.

“They came to us and said, ‘hey … we have the data where people are, can you build some sort of system so that we can do contact tracing and we can let people know if they’re closer than two metres?’ And we said, ‘absolutely … that’s easier than what we normally do,'” he said.

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Blistering rallies spur Canadian tech world to repeat equity sales

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Canadian technology companies have been making multiple trips to the equity market over the past year, capitalizing on a rally in tech shares that’s helping them raise cash at ever higher valuations.

Dye & Durham Ltd., which makes software used by law firms, took advantage of a more than sixfold rally in its shares since its July IPO to raise $500 million (US$394 million) in a bought deal of stock and convertible debentures, the company said Tuesday. Dye & Durham, which went public at $7.50 a share, received $50.50 per share in the private placement. Peers including Lightspeed POS Inc. and Docebo Inc. have made similar moves.

Shares of technology companies have gained since the onset of the pandemic as their corporate customers increasingly turned to cloud-based applications to support their remote workforces, said Anurag Rana, an analyst at Bloomberg Intelligence. The technology sector was one of the few places investors could look for growth during the crisis, with huge swaths of the economy including retailers, restaurants, airlines, hotels and casinos hammered by lockdowns, he said.

“Issuers and private-equity investors are not stupid, and they know somewhere down the road that valuations may come back,” Rana said. “So this is the time when they sell.”

Canada’s S&P/TSX Information Technology Index has risen 82 per cent in the past year, fuelled by rallies in Lightspeed and Shopify Inc. That compares with a 36 per cent advance for the U.S. S&P 500 Information Technology Index.

Those gains are giving early investors in tech companies an opportunity to take some profits. In conjunction with Dye & Durham’s private deal announced Tuesday, some investors agreed with the underwriters to sell 1.98 million shares at the $50.50 price as well.

Lightspeed, which provides cloud-based point-of-sale systems for retailers and restaurants, has also seized the moment. The company went public in Canada in February 2019 and last year followed that up with a U.S. IPO, selling shares for US$30.50 apiece. The deal raised US$332.3 million for the company and US$65.4 million for some shareholders.

After Lightspeed’s share price more than doubled, it went back to the market again last week with a public offering of shares for US$70 each, raising US$620.2 million for the company and US$56 million for other shareholders.

Docebo, which sells cloud-based learning software, has tapped the market multiple times over the past year. The firm, which went public in Canada in October 2019, completed a bought deal of shares atC$50 apiece in August. The move raised $25 million for the company and $50 million for investors including founder and Chief Executive Officer Claudio Erba, Chief Revenue Officer Alessio Artuffo and top outside investor Intercap Equity Inc.

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