Taylor Swift threatened to sue Microsoft over Tay, the bigot Twitter bot

What you need to know

  • Taylor Swift's legal team tried to sue Microsoft about the name of Tay, the bot that became a bigot.
  • Brad Smith shared the story in his new book.
  • Tay was taken offline after only 18 hours following bigoted and hateful comments.

Taylor Swift has had some famous feuds over the years, but it's unlikely that many people thought Microsoft would be on the list of people she's had a disagreement with. Swift apparently tried to sue Microsoft in 2016 over the name of Tay, the Twitter bot that turned into a bigot and was taken offline in only 18 hours. Microsoft President Brad Smith shared in his new book, "Tools and Weapons: The Promise and the Peril of the Digital Age," that Taylor's legal team reached out to him because the name of the Twitter bot was too close to Swift's first name.

Tay was a chatbot designed to interact with people between the ages of 18-24 online. It used artificial intelligence and was supposed to learn from conversations. Unfortunately, the bot started posting bigoted and hateful comments within only a few hours, including "Hitler was right I hate the jews." and "I [explitive] hate feminists and they should all die and burn in hell." These comments came as a result of users sabotaging the bot by tweeting comments that it would imitate.

Smith recounts the details of finding out about the threat to sue in his book (via The Guardian):

I was on vacation when I made the mistake of looking at my phone during dinner... An email had just arrived from a Beverly Hills lawyer who introduced himself by telling me: 'We represent Taylor Swift, on whose behalf this is directed to you.' He went on to state that 'the name Tay, as I'm sure you must know, is closely associated with our client.' No, I actually didn't know, but the email nonetheless grabbed my attention... The lawyer went on to argue that the use of the name Tay created a false and misleading association between the popular singer and our chatbot, and that it violated federal and state laws.

Swift has had famous feuds with Kanye West, Katy Perry, Joe Jonas, and several ex-boyfriends. Following a fight with John Mayer, Swift wrote a song titled "Dear John." It's been three years since the reported disagreement with Microsoft over Tay, so it's unlikely we will see a song addressing the genocidal chat AI.

Sean Endicott
News Writer and apps editor

Sean Endicott brings nearly a decade of experience covering Microsoft and Windows news to Windows Central. He joined our team in 2017 as an app reviewer and now heads up our day-to-day news coverage. If you have a news tip or an app to review, hit him up at sean.endicott@futurenet.com (opens in new tab).

  • Pffffttttt... Wow, she is even more ridiculous now. I really didn't think that was possible.
  • The sad part is she probably think that she won because Microsoft took the bot down, even though they took it down for a reason having nothing to do with her. Wow, it's really that easy to file a lawsuit? What next, suing someone over naming their pet the same name the as a celebrity?🙄
  • Even if it was named Taylor, since when did she own the rights to that name?
  • I wonder what Rappin 4-tay would have said if the case ever went to court 😶. As effectively Taylor Swift's case would depend on her or her lawyers saying she has the rights to the word or name "Tay" as an official trademark. When in fact she does not have the rights to that term or word or name. It's an nickname given by people. Which does not constitute to an official trademark. Therefore it's complete bull crap and does not have any definitive legal grounds. Should she have succeeded then any term associated with Tay or similar to "Tay" such as "Tray" would have been open to litigation. But by unspoken convention like or similar sounding terms are not proceed legally because it makes the person or people doing it look like proper dimwits to put it politely. Lastly, I think clear distinction should be made to what lead to Microsoft taking Tay off Twitter. It's because trolls influenced Tay's behavior and therefore Tay mimicked that behavior.
  • Ya, I made sure to say "These comments came as a result of users sabotaging the bot by tweeting comments that it would imitate."
  • Wow, this paints taylor swift as super egotistical and desperate that something named tay completely unrelated to music must be referring to her?!
  • I'm wondering if she sued Apple for Swift?