U.S. Clears Way for Antitrust Inquiries of Nvidia, Microsoft and OpenAI

The Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission agreed to divide responsibility for investigating three major players in the artificial intelligence industry.

Federal regulators have reached a deal that allows them to proceed with antitrust investigations into the dominant roles that Microsoft, OpenAI

and Nvidia play in the artificial intelligence industry, in the strongest sign of how regulatory scrutiny into the powerful technology has escalated.

The Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission struck the deal over the past week, and it is expected to be completed in the coming days, according to two people with knowledge of the matter, who were not authorized to speak publicly about the confidential discussions.

Under the arrangement, the Justice Department will take the lead in investigating whether the behavior of Nvidia, the biggest maker of A.I. chips, has violated antitrust laws, the people said. The F.T.C. will play the lead role in examining the conduct of OpenAI, which makes the ChatGPT chatbot, and Microsoft, which has invested $13 billion in OpenAI and made deals with other A.I. companies, the people said.

The agreement signals intensifying scrutiny by the Justice Department and the F.T.C. into A.I., a rapidly advancing technology that has the potential to upend jobs, information and people’s lives. Both agencies have been at the forefront of the Biden administration’s efforts to rein in the power of the biggest tech companies. After a similar deal in 2019, the government investigated Google, Apple, Amazon and Meta and has since sued each of them on claims that they violated antimonopoly laws.

For months, Nvidia, Microsoft and OpenAI largely escaped the brunt of the Biden administration’s regulatory scrutiny. But that began to change as generative A.I., which can produce humanlike text, photos, videos and audio, burst onto the scene in late 2022 and created an industry frenzy.

Regulators have recently signaled that they want to get ahead of developments in A.I. In July, the F.T.C. opened an investigation into whether OpenAI had harmed consumers through its collection of data. In January, the F.T.C. also started a broad inquiry into strategic partnerships between tech giants and A.I. start-ups, including Microsoft’s investment in OpenAI and Google’s and Amazon’s investments in Anthropic, another young A.I. company.

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