The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is initiating investigations into major technology companies, including Google, Amazon, Anthropic, Microsoft, and OpenAI, to scrutinize their potential influence over the generative artificial intelligence sector. The agency issued letters to these companies, invoking Clause 6(b) of its founding statute, seeking documentation related to exclusive partnerships, privileged access to products and services, and the ability to control pricing of other entities. The investigation aims to assess whether these technology giants exert undue influence, compromising fair competition within the layers of the AI stack. FTC Chairwoman Lina Khan emphasized the focus on understanding the relationships and partnerships formed between AI developers and major cloud service providers.
The FTC’s decision to investigate puts it in alignment with European and British antitrust authorities, which have initiated similar inquiries in recent months. These global investigations are triggered, in part, by concerns about Microsoft’s role in reinstating OpenAI CEO Sam Altman, leading to a nonvoting seat for Microsoft on the OpenAI board. Microsoft’s substantial investment of $13 billion in OpenAI and its integration of OpenAI’s ChatGPT model into its Office suite have raised questions about the nature of these partnerships and their impact on competition. The FTC seeks information on how business models and partnerships drive incentives in the rapidly evolving AI sector.
FTC Chairwoman Lina Khan highlighted the commission’s interest in examining the ties between major tech firms and AI developers to determine if they enable dominant companies to wield undue influence or gain privileged access, potentially undermining fair competition. The investigation also extends to scrutinizing arrangements for access to cloud computing, including discussions about contractual restrictions. The FTC emphasized its focus on ensuring that business incentives align with legal standards, signaling a commitment to preventing potential violations. As these investigations unfold, major technology companies, including the ones under scrutiny, have not yet responded to requests for comment.