U.S. Clears Way for Antitrust Inquiries of Nvidia, Microsoft and OpenAI

Federal regulators have reached an agreement that allows them to launch antitrust investigations into the dominant roles that Microsoft, OpenAI and Nvidia play in the artificial intelligence sector, the strongest sign of intensifying regulatory scrutiny of this powerful technology.

The Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission reached the deal last week, and it is expected to be finalized in the coming days, according to two people familiar with the matter, who were not authorized to speak publicly about the confidential discussions.

As part of the deal, the Justice Department will investigate whether the behavior of Nvidia, the largest AI chip maker, violated antitrust laws, the sources said. The FTC will take a lead role in examining the behavior of OpenAI, which makes the ChatGPT chatbot, and Microsoft, which has invested $13 billion in OpenAI and struck deals with other AI companies, the sources said.

The agreement signals increased scrutiny by the Justice Department and the FTC over AI, a rapidly evolving technology that has the potential to disrupt jobs, information and people’s lives. Both agencies have been at the forefront of the Biden administration’s efforts to rein in the power of the biggest tech companies. After a similar deal in 2019, the government investigated Google, Apple, Amazon and Meta and has since taken each of them to court for violating antimonopoly laws.

For months, Nvidia, Microsoft and OpenAI have largely escaped the Biden administration’s regulatory oversight. But that began to change when generative AI, capable of producing text, photos, video and audio in a human-like manner, burst onto the scene in late 2022 and created an industrial frenzy.

Regulators have recently indicated that they want to get ahead of developments in AI. In July, the FTC opened an investigation into whether OpenAI harmed consumers through its data collection. In January, the FTC also launched a broad investigation into strategic partnerships between tech giants and AI startups, including Microsoft’s investment in OpenAI and Google and Amazon’s investment in Anthropic, another young AI company.

Yet the United States lags behind Europe in regulating artificial intelligence. European Union officials agreed last year on historic rules to govern the rapidly evolving technology, focused on the riskiest ways to use it. In Washington last month, a group of senators released legislative recommendations for AI, calling for $32 billion in annual spending to propel U.S. leadership in the technology field, but stopping short of calling for new specific regulations.

Discussions between the FTC and the Justice Department about AI companies entered their final stages last week and involved top levels of both agencies, said a person familiar with the discussions, who is an official of the FTC.

Lina Khan, chairwoman of the FTC, said in a February interview that when it comes to AI, the agency tries to spot “potential problems early on rather than years and years and years later.” late, when the problems are deep-rooted and well-established.” more difficult to rectify.

Spokespeople for the FTC and the Justice Department declined to comment. Nvidia, Microsoft and OpenAI did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Nvidia, OpenAI and Microsoft have been in the spotlight as being among the biggest winners from the AI ​​boom, raising questions about their dominance.

Nvidia, a Silicon Valley chipmaker, is the leading supplier of graphics processing units, or GPUs, which are components suitable for AI tasks such as machine learning. After AI took off, tech companies rushed to get their hands on Nvidia’s GPUs, doubling and tripling its sales. Nvidia’s stock price has soared more than 200% over the past year and the company’s market capitalization surpassed $3 trillion for the first time on Wednesday, surpassing that of Apple.

Industry players are increasingly worried about Nvidia’s dominance, said two people with knowledge of the concerns, including how the company’s software forces customers to use its chips, as well as how Nvidia distributes those chips to customers.

Microsoft, the world’s most valuable public technology company, has also become a leading provider of artificial intelligence. It owns 49% of OpenAI, which burst into the public consciousness with the release of ChatGPT in 2022. The chatbot’s ability to answer questions, generate images and build computer code has captivated people and quickly made the start-up one of the most prominent companies in the technology sector.

Microsoft has integrated OpenAI technology into its own products. The AI ​​now generates answers for users of its search engine, Bing, and can help create presentations and documents in PowerPoint and Word. (The New York Times sued OpenAI and Microsoft, alleging copyright infringement over news content related to AI systems.)

Microsoft’s AI deals have drawn attention for giving one of the biggest tech companies leverage over an emerging technology, while some industry players have raised questions about whether the deals are structured in a way that allows Microsoft to avoid direct scrutiny by regulators.

Microsoft structured its minority stake in OpenAI in part to avoid antitrust scrutiny, the Times reported. Microsoft also struck a deal in March to hire most of the staff at Inflection AI, another AI startup, and license its technology. Since this is not a standard acquisition, it could be more difficult for regulators to review.

Last week, the Justice Department’s antitrust division hosted a conference on AI at Stanford University. In his opening remarks, Jonathan Kanter, the agency’s top antitrust official, highlighted “structures and trends in AI that should give us pause.”

“AI leverages enormous amounts of data and computing power, which can give a substantial advantage to already dominant companies,” he said.

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Sara Adm

Aimant les mots, Sara Smith a commencé à écrire dès son plus jeune âge. En tant qu'éditeur en chef de son journal scolaire, il met en valeur ses compétences en racontant des récits impactants. Smith a ensuite étudié le journalisme à l'université Columbia, où il est diplômé en tête de sa classe. Après avoir étudié au New York Times, Sara décroche un poste de journaliste de nouvelles. Depuis dix ans, il a couvert des événements majeurs tels que les élections présidentielles et les catastrophes naturelles. Il a été acclamé pour sa capacité à créer des récits captivants qui capturent l'expérience humaine.
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