The FTC is investigating Microsoft, Amazon and Alphabet’s investments into AI startups

The Federal Trade Commission has launched an investigation into large investments by Microsoft, Amazon and Alphabet in generative artificial intelligence startups OpenAI and Anthropic. The FTC said it issued “enforceable orders” to the companies and will scrutinize their relationships with AI startups to understand their impact on competition.

“History shows that new technologies can create new markets and healthy competition,” FTC Chairman Lina Khan he said in the statement. “As companies race to develop and monetize AI, we must avoid tactics that seize this opportunity. Our research will shed light on whether investments and partnerships by dominant companies risk distorting innovation and undermining fair competition.” Companies have 45 days to respond to the agency.

Since OpenAI released ChatGPT in late 2022, generative AI has exploded, fueling both excitement about its potential to boost productivity and concern about job losses. Against this backdrop, the world’s biggest tech companies are racing to develop their own versions of the technology, spending billions of dollars on the small startups that create it. Microsoft, for example, invested It has invested more than $13 billion in OpenAI for a 49 percent stake, using the startup’s technology to add generative AI capabilities to Bing, its search engine, as well as Windows and Office. Amazon and Alphabet have invested 4 billion dollars and 2 billion dollarsn at Anthropic, an artificial intelligence startup that created a chatbot called Claude.

In an opinion column The New York Times last year the FTC’s Khan he wrote “EU enlargement risks further closing the market dominance of large incumbent technology firms,” ​​and argued for AI regulation.

As part of the investigation, the FTC is seeking information about the characteristics of Microsoft, Amazon and Alphabet’s investments, decisions about new product launches, control rights, market share analysis and sales growth potential, among other details.

The US isn’t the only country investigating Big Tech’s ties to generative AI startups. UK Competition and Markets Authority he said Last month, it was investigating whether Microsoft’s investment in OpenAI was subject to antitrust law.

Microsoft president Brad Smith in a December X article It is characterized the company’s OpenAI investment as a partnership that “encourages greater AI innovation and competition while maintaining independence for both companies.” Microsoft currently has a non-voting observer seat on OpenAI’s board, which Smith says is “very different from buying.”

Microsoft, Amazon, Alphabet, Anthropic and OpenAI did not immediately respond to Engadget’s request for comment.

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