Taylor Swift can usually do no wrong, according to her “Swiftie” fanbase, who frequently come out in force to defend her honour with online “pile-ons”. But the golden girl of today’s pop world may have taken a misstep, if reactions to her most recent move are anything to go by.
Legal representatives for the multi-Grammy-and-American-Music-award-winning singer have issued a threatening letter to a college student who tracks celebrity private jet usage. Jack Sweeney attends the University of Central Florida and runs various social media accounts where he publishes information about private jet flights. Like Swift, he has also won accolades for his work; not pop songs, but measuring the carbon-footprints of various well-known figures.
But in December he received the cease-and-desist letter from Swift’s Washington-based lawyers, telling him there was “no legitimate interest in or public need for this information, other than to stalk, harass, and exert dominion and control”.
According to Washington Post reports, attorney Katie Wright Morrone wrote, “While this may be a game to you, or an avenue that you hope will earn you wealth or fame, it is a life-or-death matter for our Client.”
The information Sweeney publishes is in fact publicly available data from the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and signals emitted from planes. But a spokesperson for Swift told British news outlet The Guardian “the timing of stalkers suggests a connection. His posts tell you exactly when and where she would be.”
Sweeney noted talking to the Post that Swift’s legal action only came after public outrage over her private jet use and its environmental fallout. For once, online commentators who claimed to be Swift fans seemed to sympathise with him, calling Swift’s letter “unnecessary” and “cruel”.
Wherever you stand on the matter, it’s an unusual look for Swift to align herself with personalities such as Elon Musk, whose private jet usage has also been published by Sweeney. Musk, who once called Sweeney’s flight trackers a “safety risk”, disabled Sweeney’s Twitter account when he took over the social media platform. He has come out saying Swift was “right to be concerned”. Other platforms such as Facebook and Instagram have also disabled Sweeney’s accounts on privacy grounds.
Compared to Swift and Musk, Sweeney exudes calm and seems to have his feet on the ground. “I actually think Swift has some good songs,” he told press, pointing out the data he uses is in the public domain and therefore Swift’s whereabouts is also public knowledge “whether or not I do it.”