The case was filed in a district court in Travis County, Texas on behalf of Ben Brody, as reported by Huffington Post.
The 60-page filing is available to read online, but Brody’s lawyer Mark Bankston also detailed the key points of the case in a Twitter thread.
“In yet another example of his growing tendency to spread false information, Musk falsely told the world there was evidence indicating Ben Brody participated in a violent street brawl on behalf of a neo-Nazi extremist group,” Bankston wrote.
The brawl occurred during Portland’s Pride event, on June 24, but it was between two far-right groups, the infamous Proud Boys and Rose City Nationalists, rather than those celebrating.
During the fight, two of the activists’ face masks were removed, causing those on social media to attempt to track down who these people were.
“Based on nothing more than a passing resemblance between Ben and the unmasked neo-Nazi, an accusation was made,” Bankston says.
A narrative started to form that this unmasked person was part of a “false flag” operation.
The Elon Musk tweet that the case cites as defamation was posted on June 27, in response to a tweet by the account ZeroHedge, which wrote: “Patriot Front ‘White Supremacist’ Unmasked as Suspected Fed.”
Musk replied: “Looks like one is a college student (who wants to join the govt) and another is maybe an Antifa member, but nonetheless a probable false flag situation,” suggesting the fight was part of a conspiracy action.
At the time of writing, Musk has not deleted the post.
The case suggests that while Brody is not directly named, the context of previous Musk tweets linking Brody to the event makes the intention clear, that he is the “college student” cited. This led to waves of social media pile-ons.
“Even apart from the damage to his reputation, Ben and his family were put through weeks of terror due to Musk’s recklessness, and now Ben finds himself depressed, freaked out, and mentally distraught at the crucial moment when he exits college and enters his career path,” Banskton says.
The case is seeking reparations that “will exceed $1,000,000”, according to the filing.
This is not the first time Elon Musk has been sued for defamation. One of the cave divers involved in the rescue of trapped Thai schoolchildren sued Musk in 2018 for suggesting he was a paedophile.
Musk called Vernon Unsworth a “pedo guy” after the diver said the Tesla CEO’s public offers of help were a PR stunt.
The case ended up in Musk’s favour, though, with a US jury returning a unanimous verdict in December 2019.