The complete cease-and-desist letter that lawyers representing Taylor Swift sent to the college student tracking the singer’s private jet flights has just been made public, showing the lengths to which the global superstar and TIME’s 2023 Person of the Year is willing to go to try to protect her privacy.
Swift, who earlier this week made history and courted controversy at the Grammys, threatened to “escalate” legal action against 21-year-old Jack Sweeney, who operated the Instagram account @taylorswiftjets that has since been taken down, for allegedly endangering her safety.
The letter from law firm Venable LLP, dated Dec. 22, 2023, garnered traction after it was posted on Reddit on Tuesday. Sweeney, a junior at the University of Central Florida, confirmed to media outlets that the letter in the post was what he had received.
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In the letter, Swift’s lawyers warned that this was “a life-or-death matter” for the pop star, who has over the years found herself a frequent target of stalkers and online harassment. Sweeney, for his part, told the Associated Press that “one should reasonably expect that their jet will be tracked, whether or not I’m the one doing it, as it is public information after all.”
Using public flight monitoring data from the Federal Aviation Administration, Sweeney has created bots that track the routes, plane details, and other travel information of a number of celebrities and other people of interest, including Mark Zuckerberg, Kim Kardashian, Drake, Russian oligarchs, and Elon Musk—who in 2022 similarly threatened legal action against Sweeney over safety concerns. (The @ElonJet Twitter account was ultimately suspended, though Sweeney has since taken to Threads to continue tracking Musk’s jets and has another X account that posts tracking information on a 24-hour delay.)
Swift’s legal letter was sent to Sweeney at a time when the jet-setting lifestyle of the billionaire artist—as well as other rich and famous figures—came under heightened scrutiny for its environmental impact. In 2022, a report by sustainability marketing firm Yard ranked Swift the No. 1 celebrity carbon-dioxide polluter, with emissions 1,100 times the amount of the average person. (Swift’s spokesperson claimed at the time that the singer’s jet was “loaned out regularly,” and last year a spokesperson told media that “Taylor purchased more than double the carbon credits needed to offset all tour travel.”)
Swift reportedly recently parted ways with one of her two personal planes, though her jet use is unlikely to stop anytime soon. Her busy schedule balancing global-economy-boosting concerts and Kansas City Chiefs football games to support boyfriend Travis Kelce regularly spans time zones. In fact, Swift just arrived in Tokyo for the latest leg of her Eras Tour, and she’s expected to fly back across the world right after her last show on Saturday night to make it to Las Vegas in time for the Super Bowl.
Swift’s full cease-and-desist letter to Sweeney
Please be advised that Venable LLP represents Ms. Taylor Swift (“Client”). We understand that you are the individual operating the Instagram account @taylorswiftjets, and the Threads account by the same name (the “Offending Accounts”). For the past year, through these Offending Accounts, you have engaged in stalking and harassing behavior, including consistently publishing real-time and precise information about our Client’s location and future whereabouts to the public on social media. This conduct poses an imminent threat to the safety and wellbeing of our Client and must stop. We request that you immediately cease and desist from any further publication of this information, remove all currently-posted content on the Offending Accounts, and permanently terminate the operation of the Offending Accounts (and any similar accounts involving our Client).
You are notorious for disregarding the personal safety of others in exchange for public attention and/or requests for financial gain. We are aware of your public disputes with other high-profile individuals and your tactics in those interactions, including offering to stop your harmful behavior only in exchange for items of value.1 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. Ms. Swift has dealt with stalkers and other individuals who wish her harm since she was a teenager. Indeed, there are many public cases of individuals who have come to Ms. Swift’s residences, including those armed with weapons and ammunition, and attempted to harm her. This reality has forced our Client to live her life in a constant state of fear for her personal safety. That fear is and has been significantly heightened due to your reckless actions. Because the Offending Accounts share “live” updates on her destination and the exact time our Client will arrive at a given location, you essentially provide individuals intent on physically harming her, or with nefarious or violent intentions, a roadmap to carry out their plans.
Of course, you have actual knowledge of all of this. Many social media users have commented on the Offending Accounts, expressing shock and concern at the danger you have created. Below is just a small sampling of the clear warnings that users have made in comments on the Instagram Offending Account:
- “So many people obsessed with Taylor’s private life, it’s scary and pathetic.” (December 17, 2023);
- “You people are unhinged stalkers.” (December 17, 2023);
- “I feel like ethically you should delay these posts by a day so its not so creepy.” (October 30, 2023);
- “At least this stalker account is finally good for something.” (October 22, 2023);
- “This is creepy bro. Youre literally stalking her.” (September 22, 2023);
- The account is “still very very creepy. especially for taylor, who has been stalked before” (September 5, 2023);
- “yes yall she has literal stalkers who want to hurt her….which is why this page is so problematic and dangerous” (July 17, 2023);
- “I’m gonna encourage everybody to report this account. This is stalker behavior and it’s so [expletive] up.” (July 17, 2023); and
- “this account is so weird and invasive” (July 12, 2023).
Yet, your unlawful behavior continues.
Your willful and repeated harassment of our Client is in violation of several state laws. As is your intentional, offensive, and outrageous conduct and consistent violations of our Client’s privacy. To be clear, there is no justification for you to publicly identify our Client’s location. Indeed, there is no legitimate interest in or public need for this information, other than to stalk, harass, and exert dominion and control. Your posts on the Offending Accounts have caused and will continue to cause direct and irreparable harm, as well as emotional and physical distress to our Client, her family, and those close to her. Your wrongful and dangerous actions must stop.
Accordingly, we demand that you cease and desist from any further use or operation of the Offending Accounts (and any similar accounts involving our Client), remove all content related to our Client from the Offending Accounts, and immediately stop providing information about our Client’s location to the public. If you fail to adhere to these demands immediately, and by no later than close of business on December 26, 2023, or if you continue to publish information that threatens our Client’s safety, she will have no choice but to pursue any and all legal remedies available to her.2 We will not hesitate to escalate this matter as needed.
Our Client reserves all rights.
1 See, e.g., https://www.cnn.com/2022/01/30/business/elon-musk-private-jet-twitter/index.html; https://www.tampabay.com/life-culture/2022/07/06/florida-student-tracking-elon-musks-jet-doesnt-plan-to-stop.
2 For the avoidance of doubt, this letter constitutes the “clear and definitive demand that [you] cease and abate” your unlawful conduct pursuant to Cal. Civ. Code § 1708.7 and any other applicable laws.