AI choice should not be ‘American or American,’ EU antitrust chief warns

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Europe fears a repeat of how U.S. tech giants gobbled up social media, cloud markets.

Europe is worried about getting steamrolled by American tech giants on artificial intelligence, with its chief competition and digital affairs official warning the market should stay open.

“The choice should not be American or American,” European Commission Executive Vice President Margrethe Vestager told the POLITICO Tech podcast.

“Europe is open for business from everywhere. But I think it’s important that you have choice,” she said.

Vestager was addressing increasing concerns among competition regulators that the control over artificial intelligence is being gobbled up by a few leading technology companies.

Microsoft has acquired a leading stake in OpenAI, the company behind popular chatbot ChatGPT, and is in a fierce race with competitor Google over who can roll out the most advanced AI tech the fastest.

Antitrust authorities have zoned in on the issue. In the United States, both the Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission are looking at how to probe OpenAI on antitrust grounds. European Union regulators in January asked industry players for feedback on whether they see issues with competition for AI. And the United Kingdom’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) launched a similar survey in December.

At the heart of Europe’s fears: A repeat of what happened with the last generation of internet giants. When social media, search and cloud firms boomed, it created titans like Facebook’s parent company Meta, Google and Amazon — but reduced Europe to a bystander unable to catch up and compete.

Big data became “an essential driver of competition … It completely changed market dynamics,” Vestager said in the interview, on her visit to Washington, D.C. “Now, with AI, it is likely that we will see a change in market dynamics as well, and it’s likely that it will happen much faster than what we saw of network effects and the data-driven marketplace,” she said.

The fear of being steamrolled by U.S. giants in past weeks led France to slow down the approval of the EU’s Artificial Intelligence Act because it argued parts of the law would slow down its national AI champion Mistral AI.

Source: Politico