Civil society calls on the UK’s CMA to investigate the Microsoft-OpenAI monopolisation gambit

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January 9, 2024 Civil society calls on the UK’s CMA to investigate the Microsoft-OpenAI monopolisation gambit

A group of civil society organisations have just published a detailed submission to the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), one of the world’s most robust regulators in this sphere, which is now investigating  a recent tie-up between Microsoft and OpenAI, a leader in the AI field.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is rapidly tipping towards monopoly. That’s a many-layered problem: monopolies are concentrations not just of economic but of political power, and monopolisation will make regulation far harder. It sets up giants as  ‘gatekeepers’ or tollkeepers sitting astride major chokepoints in the flows of money and data that animate our increasingly digital lives, with power to manipulate and abuse us in the name of profit.

Our market regulators need to use the tools of competition policy, antitrust and merger control to tackle this dangerous monopolisation.  The trouble is, as our submission says:

“Commercial arrangements between dominant tech companies and smaller AI firms [are]  seemingly designed to avoid the antitrust scrutiny that would accompany outright acquisition. . . These companies are deliberately reconfiguring their “deals” to look like innocent “agreements”.

Microsoft claims that it has merely ‘invested’ in OpenAI in an ‘arm’s length’ independent relationship. We, and many others, beg to differ, laying out the many reasons why this ‘arm’s length’ relationship is a fiction, and and regulators must act “early and aggressively” against it.

“Letting the largest incumbents dictate how AI develops, by leveraging their current monopoly power into future markets and technologies, will serve their profit margins but will not serve the public interest.”

The submission has good coverage in Politico.

Our shared submission, again, is here.