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UK competition body warns of Big Tech AI dominance

The UK’s competition regulator has warned that a small number of powerful tech firms have the potential to use their size to dominate the AI market.

Speaking at a conference in Washington DC, Sarah Cardell, chief executive of the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), noted the growing presence in the AI foundation model market of a handful of firms.

Advancing AI capabilities has been a top priority for the incumbent Big Tech firms. Microsoft, Amazon, Google and Meta have poured billions into AI in the hopes of leading in the rapidly advancing field.

The CMA expressed concern that some firms have both the ability and incentive to control the AI market to suit their own needs, thereby damaging fair and open competition.

The watchdog published its updated paper looking at its approach to AI on Thursday. The update follows the group’s initial report last September.

The new paper highlights three primary risks to fair competition in the AI market.

The risk of firms that control critical inputs for AI foundation models restricting access from competition, powerful tech giants exploiting their market positions to distort choice and consolidation through partnerships of key players.

The CMA began examining the partnership between Microsoft and OpenAI, the company behind ChatGPT, in December over competition concerns.

“When we started this work, we were curious. Now, with a deeper understanding and having watched developments very closely, we have real concerns,” said Cardell.

“We’re committed to applying the principles we have developed, and to using all legal powers at our disposal – now and in the future – to ensure that this transformational and structurally critical technology delivers on its promise.”