Home Entertainment Taylor Swift threatens to sue Microsoft over its racist chatbot Tay

Taylor Swift threatens to sue Microsoft over its racist chatbot Tay

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Taylor Swift tried to sue Microsoft over a chatbot which posted racist messages on Twitter, the president of the tech company has revealed.

According to Microsoft’s president, the singer already had trademark issues with the company’s US version of the Chinese chatbot XiaoIce, before it was plugged into Twitter – and became a Nazi.

Taylor’s lawyers made a move on Microsoft in 2016, according to a new biography by its boss Brad Smith.

She was unhappy with the name of its chatbot Tay, meant to interact with 18 to 24-year-olds online, because it was similar to hers.

If you don’t remember TayTweets, it’s the Twitter chatbot that turned racist.

Taylor Swift has claimed ownership over many things. In 2015, she applied for trademarks for lyrics including “this sick beat” and “Nice to meet you. Where you been?” A few months later, she went further, trademarking the year of her birth, “1989”. We now know it didn’t end there. A new book reveals that, a year later, Swift claimed ownership of the name Tay – and threatened to sue Microsoft for infringing it.

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In the spring of 2016, Microsoft announced plans to bring a chatbot it had developed for the Chinese market to the US. The chatbot, XiaoIce, was designed to have conversations on social media with teenagers and young adults. Users developed a genuine affinity for it, and would spend a quarter of an hour a day unloading their hopes and fears to a friendly, yet non-judgmental ear.

What was TayTweets?

TayTweets was controlled by artificial intelligence and was designed to learn from conversations held on social media.

But shortly after Tay was launched, it tweeted to say it supported genocide and didn’t believe the holocaust happened – among other things.

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Microsoft issued an apology and took Tay offline after less than 18-hours of offensive conversations on Twitter.

aylor Swift’s legal action wasn’t about what the chatbot had said online, but instead about the similarity to her own name.

“I was on vacation when I made the mistake of looking at my phone during dinner,” Brad Smith writes in his new book, Tools and Weapons, reports the Guardian.

“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.’

“‘The name Tay, as I’m sure you must know, is closely associated with our client’,” he adds. “No, I actually didn’t know, but the email nonetheless grabbed my attention.”

He says the lawyer argued that the name Tay violated federal and state laws and “created a false and misleading association between the popular singer and our chatbot”.

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Taylor’s trademarks

Taylor and her legal team are pretty strict on people who come too close to the singer and her intellectual property rights.

Her name, signature and initials are already trademarks and in 2015 she attempted to trademark lyrics from her album, 1989.

Just before the record was released she successfully filed to make sayings like “this sick beat” and “nice to meet you, where you been” trademarks.

This made sure she was the only person in the world able to use sayings like these on merchandise – and threatened Etsy sellers with legal action in 2015 for using them on their homemade products.

Radio 1 Newsbeat has contacted Taylor Swift’s representatives for comment.

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