FTC Is Investigating AI Investments by Major Tech Companies

The Federal Trade Commission has opened an investigation into Big Tech’s artificial intelligence arms race. Specifically, the agency has ordered five companies to provide information under what it calls a “6(b) inquiry,” targeting Amazon and Google’s strategic alliance with Anthropic, and Microsoft’s investment in OpenAI. The scrutiny aims “to build a better internal understanding of these relationships and their impact on the competitive landscape.” In other words, the government does not want another free for all, along the lines of social media’s growth, which saw big players acquire startups competing in the space. Continue reading FTC Is Investigating AI Investments by Major Tech Companies

Adobe and Figma Call Off Their Proposed $20 Billion Merger

In the wake of increasing pressure from European regulators, Adobe and Figma announced they are terminating their proposed merger agreement. California-based Adobe had planned to purchase Figma’s cloud-based product design platform for $20 billion, a proposal that was 15 months into the regulatory review process. However, the two companies eventually agreed there was no possibility of obtaining regulatory approval from the European Commission and the UK Competition and Markets Authority (CMA). According to a regulatory filing, the decision to cancel the deal will require Adobe to pay Figma a reverse termination fee of $1 billion in cash. Continue reading Adobe and Figma Call Off Their Proposed $20 Billion Merger

Germany, France and Italy Strike AI Deal, Pushing EU Forward

Germany, France and Italy have reached an agreement on a strategy to regulate artificial intelligence. The agreement comes on the heels of infighting among key European Union member states that has held up legislation and could potentially accelerate the broader EU negotiations. The three governments support binding voluntary commitments for large and small AI providers and endorse “mandatory self-regulation through codes of conduct” for foundation models while opposing “un-tested norms.” The paper underscores that “the AI Act regulates the application of AI and not the technology as such” and says the “inherent risks” are in the application, not the technology. Continue reading Germany, France and Italy Strike AI Deal, Pushing EU Forward

U.S. and EU Formally Adopt Long-Awaited Data Sharing Deal

The European Union has agreed to a data sharing agreement with the United States, bringing to a close a years-long negotiation that saw U.S. national security concerns bump up against European privacy rights. The new EU-U.S. Data Privacy Framework — which replaces a previous iteration, the Privacy Shield, invalidated by EU courts in 2020 — was a focus of Big Tech. Under the new agreement, Europeans can lodge formal objections when they feel their personal information has been improperly accessed by American intelligence agencies, with an independent judicial review body, the Data Protection Review Court, established to evaluate such claims. Continue reading U.S. and EU Formally Adopt Long-Awaited Data Sharing Deal

EU Urges Tech Companies to Label All AI-Generated Content

The European Union wants deepfakes and other AI-generated content labeled, and is pressing signatories to its Code of Practice on Online Disinformation to adopt technology that will clearly identify output that is generated or manipulated by machines. “The new AI technologies can be a force for good” that offers “new avenues for increased efficiency and creative expression. But, as always, we have to mention the dark side,” EU values and transparency commissioner Vera Jourova said, citing “new risks and the potential for negative consequences for society.” Continue reading EU Urges Tech Companies to Label All AI-Generated Content

White House: Big Tech Shouldn’t Be Forced to Pay ISP Fees

As consumers increasingly cord-cut, severing the once-profitable content subscriptions that offset infrastructure costs for ISPs, governments are now looking to charge Big Tech companies for access to broadband networks, which are expensive to install and maintain. The European Commission is being lobbied by telecom firms to implement such a plan, which the Biden administration is urging EU lawmakers to reject on the basis it would be difficult to enforce and could also potentially undermine net neutrality. Direct payments to telecom operators “could reinforce the dominant market position of the largest operators,” the U.S. said in response. Continue reading White House: Big Tech Shouldn’t Be Forced to Pay ISP Fees

EU Report Identifies China as Bloc’s Biggest Piracy Problem

The European Commission has come out with a list of countries whose problematic copyright policies pose the biggest threat to EU interests. China is “Priority 1” among nations lacking intellectual property and trademark protections. Categorized as “Priority 2” are India, Indonesia, Russia, Turkey and Ukraine. Less troubling but still problematic are Argentina, Brazil, Ecuador, Malaysia, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia and Thailand, which fall into “Priority 3.” Several reports noted U.S. absence from the list, but the fact that this hotbed of piracy has aggressively implemented website blocking was viewed as mitigating. Continue reading EU Report Identifies China as Bloc’s Biggest Piracy Problem

EU Greenlights Microsoft Offer to Purchase Activision Blizzard

European Union regulators have approved Microsoft’s proposed $68.7 billion purchase of game company Activision Blizzard. The European Commission accepted Microsoft’s remedies for staving off antitrust concerns in the area of cloud gaming. Microsoft said it would guarantee at least 10 years of access to Activision titles on third party cloud services, which satisfied the 27-nation bloc’s executive body. The EU announced its decision just weeks after UK lawmakers blocked the acquisition, and in the U.S. Microsoft is fending off efforts by the Federal Trade Commission to cancel the deal. Continue reading EU Greenlights Microsoft Offer to Purchase Activision Blizzard

Big Tech Braces for Potential Impact of EU Digital Markets Act

The European Union’s Digital Markets Act, applicable as of May 1, finds tech giants scrambling to anticipate regional compliance. The regulatory framework aims to ensure tech giants don’t abuse their clout by taking advantage of consumers and smaller companies. Within two months, companies providing core platform services will have to notify the European Commission and provide all relevant information. The Commission will then have two months to identify companies that fit the DMA definition of “gatekeeper.” Those that do will be subject to DMA rules and have six months to conform. Continue reading Big Tech Braces for Potential Impact of EU Digital Markets Act

Microsoft Plans to Launch Its Own Mobile Games App Store

If it overcomes regulatory hurdles and completes its $75 billion acquisition of Activision Blizzard, Microsoft plans to launch a mobile app store for games to challenge Apple and Google, according to Phil Spencer, CEO of Microsoft Games. The EU’s Digital Markets Act mandates that the makers of Android devices and iPhones must make their mobile platforms accessible to app stores by third parties, with enforcement beginning in March 2024. That means Microsoft could open a mobile app store as soon as next year, adapting the company’s Xbox and Game Pass apps to accommodate sales to mobile devices. Continue reading Microsoft Plans to Launch Its Own Mobile Games App Store

Microsoft Elevates Activision Deal with ‘Call of Duty’ Promise

Microsoft has signed agreements giving Nintendo and Nvidia access to Activision Blizzard titles including from the popular “Call of Duty” franchise in a bid to advance its proposed $75 billion purchase of the game firm. The acquisition is opposed by some regulators in the U.S. and Europe on antitrust grounds. Microsoft’s offer to provide valuable IP to platforms that compete with its Xbox aims to quell such concerns. While Nvidia and Nintendo appear to have capitulated as a result of the new contingency, guaranteed for at least 10 years, Sony Interactive Entertainment remains a holdout. Continue reading Microsoft Elevates Activision Deal with ‘Call of Duty’ Promise

CES: Addressing Challenges to Creating Global AI Standards

Both the European Parliament (the EU’s law-making body) and the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) were represented on a CES panel on “AI Rules and Tools,” moderated by CTA vice president of emerging technology policy Doug Johnson. Also on the panel were executives from Facebook parent Meta Platforms and insurance provider Elevance Health, for a robust discussion on how to arrive at standards and regulations for the powerful — but often industry-based — AI technologies that will also be accepted by countries around the world and industries with competing interests. Continue reading CES: Addressing Challenges to Creating Global AI Standards

EU Pushes Its Antitrust Case Against Facebook Marketplace

The European Commission has formed a “preliminary view” that Meta Platforms has breached EU antitrust law by manipulating competition in the online classified advertising markets on Facebook and Instagram. The Commission took particular umbrage with the bundling of Meta’s Facebook with access to Facebook Marketplace, which allows users to buy and sell items. Meta could face a fine as high as $11.8 billion if the allegations of self-dealing prove true. The Commission also claims Meta is imposing unfair conditions on Marketplace competitors for its own benefit. Continue reading EU Pushes Its Antitrust Case Against Facebook Marketplace

White House Updates Data Protection Framework with the EU

President Biden has signed an executive order designed to repair data sharing with the European Union. The arrangement has been in disarray since 2020, when the Court of Justice of the European Union nullified the Privacy Shield, jeopardizing what the White House calls a $7.1 trillion economic relationship, premised on companies doing business on both sides of the pond. Friday’s executive order stipulates new ways for the EU to challenge what it had previously identified as objectionable U.S. government surveillance practices. In March, the U.S. and European Union agreed “in principle” to a revamped framework for data transfers. Continue reading White House Updates Data Protection Framework with the EU

EU Hints at Introduction of Metaverse Regulations and Taxes

European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen signaled the bloc is preparing the implement a regulatory framework for the metaverse, writing in her annual Letter of Intent for the State of the Union address that the Commission will in 2023 advance an “initiative on virtual worlds, such as metaverse.” The EU’s internal market commissioner, Thierry Breton, expanded on that in a blog post that Europe’s “way to foster the virtual worlds” will be threefold, focusing on “people, technologies and infrastructure,” with speculation bubbling that the third prong will involve some sort of carrier tax. Continue reading EU Hints at Introduction of Metaverse Regulations and Taxes