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AI Big Tech Investments Spark UK Antitrust Concerns

The United Kingdom’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has raised concerns over the investments in artificial intelligence (AI) by leading technology firms, including Alphabet’s Google, Apple, and Microsoft. According to a report by Bloomberg, the antitrust watchdog is calling for deeper scrutiny into these investments over fears they could be used to further consolidate their market power.

The CMA’s investigation into AI foundation models — AI systems adaptable to various tasks — has unveiled an “interconnected web” of partnerships and investments among a select group of tech giants, which also includes Meta Platforms Inc., Amazon.com Inc., and Nvidia Corp. This network, the agency fears, could potentially allow these companies to dominate the market to their advantage.

Sarah Cardell, CEO of the CMA, expressed the agency’s growing apprehension, stating, “When we started this work, we were curious. Now, with a deeper understanding and having watched developments very closely, we have real concerns.” The CMA aims to prevent a repeat of past scenarios in digital markets where a few platforms became overwhelmingly dominant.

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The report highlights how the largest U.S. tech companies have secured stakes in many promising AI startups through funding and strategic infrastructure access. Notably, Microsoft is a significant supporter of OpenAI, has invested in French AI startup Mistral, and recently acquired the team from Inflection AI. Google and Amazon have invested in Anthropic, a rival to Google’s own AI lab DeepMind, while Nvidia has supported numerous startups, including Cohere.

These investments, though less likely to attract regulatory attention than full acquisitions, are under scrutiny. The European Union, led by antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager, is investigating Microsoft’s relationships with OpenAI and Mistral. Vestager emphasized the importance of vigilance as AI technology promises to transform the marketplace.

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission has also initiated inquiries into the AI partnerships of Alphabet, Amazon, and Microsoft. Furthermore, the CMA is conducting a preliminary investigation into Microsoft’s investment in OpenAI.

Source: Bloomberg