Taylor Swift Took On Microsoft Over Its Chatbot


Taylor Swift threatened to sue Microsoft over its decision to name a chatbot “Tay,” according to a new book by company president Brad Smith.

In Tools and Weapons: The Promise and the Peril of the Digital Age, out today, Smith said the pop star claimed ownership of the name in early 2016.

“I was on vacation when I made the mistake of looking at my phone during dinner,” Smith recalled. “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.”

Smith said Swift’s lawyer insisted that using the name Tay created “a false and misleading association between the popular singer and our chatbot” and violated federal and state laws.

As it turned out, there would not be any bad blood between Microsoft and Swift.

Tay, which was based on Microsoft’s successful Xiaolce chatbot in China, was designed to learn from conversations it had with users. Smith said “a small group of American pranksters” taught Tay to say racist things so the company disconnected the chatbot within its first 18 hours.

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