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Elon Musk's Lawyers Say His First Amendment Rights Are Being Violated By Required Pre-Approval of Tesla Tweets

Musk agreed to tweet approval in 2018 after he announced on the platform he had "funding secured" to take Tesla private.


Elon Musk is taking another swing at the "Twitter sitter" requirement.

Robyn Beck | Getty Images
Elon Musk.

On Tuesday, his lawyers filed a brief saying the agreement Musk signed with the SEC back in 2018 — which requires him to have Tesla-related tweets reviewed and approved — violates his First Amendment rights, according to Bloomberg.

Elon Musk has a storied history of free-wheeling tweeting and facing (or shirking) various consequences.

In May, a shareholder sued him for market manipulation because he tweeted his deal to buy Twitter was "on hold." In the same month, he began to tweet about backing out of his bid to buy the company, which he is currently attempting to do. The SEC has also questioned Musk about tweets he posted about Twitter before disclosing he had purchased a stake in the social network.

But this week Musk's lawyers went after a different controversy. They tried again to remove an agreement the world's richest man signed in 2018 after a different tweet-related controversy.

On August 7, 2018, he tweeted he had "funding secured" to take Tesla private. The company's stock price rose that day by about 10%.

The SEC brought a securities fraud charge against him that September as a result of the tweet, and the billionaire settled the following week. He and Tesla were fined $20 million each under the agreement.

"Tesla will establish a new committee of independent directors and put in place additional controls and procedures to oversee Musk's communications," the SEC said at the time.

This means a Tesla lawyer, or Twitter sitter, if you will, has to approve his tweets about the company, according to NBC.

Musk's lawyers said this qualifies as "prior restraint," Bloomberg reported, which is when the government suppresses speech. This is mostly prohibited under the First Amendment, except in limited cases.

They have also said the SEC uses the agreement to continuously look into his speech, NBC noted.

In April, federal judge Lewis Liman declined to let Musk out of the tweet agreement with the SEC, Bloomberg noted. Musk is "simply bemoaning that he felt like he had to agree to it at the time" and now "wishes that he had not," Liman wrote.

Musk's lawyers have also claimed that he was forced to sign the agreement because of economic issues and that it is too-far reaching because it covers circumstances far into the future.

Lawyer Alex Spiro of Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, who also just started working for Ye (formerly known as Kanye West), was involved in the brief.

Elon Musk signed a merger agreement with Twitter in April but then moved to back out of it, which has resulted in a court battle between him and the platform. In one of the first hearings Tuesday, Twitter asked for Musk to be censured for getting rid of evidence.

Spiro did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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