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US Antitrust Regulators Scrutinize Big AI Players

Published: June 11, 2024
(Image: Federal Trade Commission seal is seen at a news conference to announce that Facebook Inc has agreed to a settlement of allegations it mishandled user privacy at FTC Headquarters in Washington, U.S., July 24, 2019. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas)

U.S. antitrust enforcers decided to look into the Big Tech’s role in the artificial intelligence (AI) boom, exploring whether business practices by entrenched players stifle competition in the sector.

The U.S. Department of Justice and Federal Trade Commission (FTC) have moved to investigate the biggest players in the tech industry. The step puts Nvidia, OpenAI, and Microsoft in greater danger of potential investigations. 


Speaking at a University of Chicago event in April, Assistant Attorney General Jonathan Kanter expressed a “sense of urgency” to address the advantages big companies have in their access to data used to train AI models.

“To the extent data has been aggregated or resides in the hands of a small few, that may become the high water mark for competition because the barriers to entry in scale and access to these key ingredients is limited to a small number of players,” he said.    


Another area of concern is the effect that generative AI could have on creative people whose work it could replicate, as well as the engineers who build the technology.

Kanter said at a Stanford University AI conference co-hosted by the Justice Department in late May: “Absent competition to compensate creators for their works, AI companies could exploit monopsony power on levels we have never seen before”.


FTC Chair Lina Khan stated this January that “we are scrutinizing whether these ties enable dominant firms to exert undue influence or gain privileged access in ways that could undermine fair competition across layers of the AI stack.”

At the time the FTC opened a wide-ranging inquiry into AI companies and cloud service providers. They ordered OpenAI, Microsoft, Alphabet, Amazon, and Anthropic to provide information on recent investments and partnerships.

The regulator also seeks to understand how the partnerships with Big Tech influence strategy and “decisions around the pricing of products and services; decisions around the granting of access to products and services; and decisions around personnel.”

Reuters contributed to this report.