UK probes US big tech dominance of AI

The UK Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) is worried that a small number of US tech companies could act as a cartel in order to manipulate the AI market in their favour.

Scott Bicheno

April 12, 2024

3 Min Read
source: cma

Specifically, the CMA is looking into the companies that dominate the development and commercialisation of foundation models (FM), such as Open AI’s GPT, and how they interact with each other. It has identified an ‘interconnected web’ (above) of over 90 partnerships and strategic investments involving Google, Apple, Microsoft, Meta, Amazon, and Nvidia, which it fears could be used to create excessive barriers to other companies entering the FM market.

This probe builds in preliminary work completed last year, which had the initial purpose of establishing a regulatory framework for AI. It seems a byproduct of that investigation was to uncover the extent to which those ostensibly competitive companies actually cooperate with each other. At the same time the CMA is conducting a separate but highly related investigation into the UK cloud market, which focuses on many of the same companies.

“When we started this work, we were curious,” said Sarah Cardell, CEO of the CMA. “Now, with a deeper understanding and having watched developments very closely, we have real concerns. The essential challenge we face is how to harness this immensely exciting technology for the benefit of all, while safeguarding against potential exploitation of market power and unintended consequences.”

Cardell articulated these concerns during a speech delivered in the US, where there seems to be a gathering this week of politicians and regulators wringing their hands about the apocalyptic potential of AI and the mega-companies that control it. The US and EU have also just held their fourth Joint Technology Competition Policy Dialogue.

“The growth of data monopolies and the rapid expansion of artificial intelligence expand the competitive threats we face from dominant digital gatekeepers,” said Jonathan Kanter, Assistant Attorney General, U.S. Department of Justice Antitrust Division. “Exchanging best practices with our global counterparts helps us to more effectively serve the American people, and we deeply appreciate the European Commission's continued engagement through the TCPD.”

“As businesses move at breakneck speed to build and monetize artificial intelligence and algorithmic decision-making tools, engaging with our international partners and sharing best practices will be especially critical,” said FTC Chair Lina Khan. “The Joint Technology Dialogue provides U.S. agencies and the European Commission a key opportunity to discuss emerging threats in a rapidly evolving digital economy.”

Of all the companies in question, Google and Microsoft seem to have their fingers in the most related pies. Google not only controls how most people find stuff on the internet, it also owns Android, is a major cloud player and owns many influential FMs. Microsoft, of course, dominates the PC and productivity space, is also one of the big cloud providers and seems to have a controlling interest in Open AI, which has especially caught the CMA’s attention.

The regulation of AI is set to be one of the most important public policy responsibilities of our time. On top of the need to prevent some kind of Skynet apocalypse taking place, the world has to find a way of making these companies more accountable for the direction and utilisation of AI. This effort isn’t helped by the escalating tech cold war between the US and China, and we can only hope the latter shares the concerns currently being expressed by its great rival.

About the Author(s)

Scott Bicheno

As the Editorial Director of, Scott oversees all editorial activity on the site and also manages the Intelligence arm, which focuses on analysis and bespoke content.
Scott has been covering the mobile phone and broader technology industries for over ten years. Prior to Scott was the primary smartphone specialist at industry analyst Strategy Analytics’. Before that Scott was a technology journalist, covering the PC and telecoms sectors from a business perspective.
Follow him @scottbicheno

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