Lawmakers and antitrust watchdogs have sounded the alarm over Google’s development of advanced artificial intelligence products, warning that the tech giant’s alleged monopoly on online search will not become more entrenched without federal intervention.
In the landmark antitrust trial targeting Google’s search empire, the Justice Department focused mostly on the company’s past tactics.
The feds argued that Google spent more than $10 billion annually on deals that ensured its search engine was enabled by default on most devices, allowing the company to control nearly 90% of the market share.
However, some critics of Google’s business practices, including Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.), point out that the company is already pursuing the next evolution of search in the form of artificial intelligence tools like the company’s Bard chatbot — which is extremely intelligent. . It’s called a “big language model” that can provide human-like responses to an infinite range of user queries.
Buck said competition concerns around Google’s business will “certainly” get worse as Bard and other AI technologies are gradually integrated into the ubiquitous search engine — unless Congress takes action.
“If there’s one thing we’ve learned from the way Congress legislated online early on, it’s that we need to stay engaged,” Buck told the newspaper. “These companies are very manipulative and very good at what they do to prevent competition. We need to make sure we identify those areas and give regulators the power to go into them.”
When reached for comment, a Google spokeswoman claimed that there is already “a tremendous amount of competition and investment in AI from new players and established companies.”
“Some of the world’s leading AI labs like OpenAI and Anthropic started without private data,” the spokeswoman said. “We provide many tools to help others innovate and conduct advanced research by releasing dozens of datasets, from annotated text to images, videos, and more.”
AI’s imminent takeover of online search emerged as a talking point in the trial on October 2, when Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella gave startling testimony in which he said Google’s default deals make the idea of user choice “completely false.”
Microsoft has sought to one-up Google by pouring billions into OpenAI, the maker of ChatGPT, and integrating its automated chatbot into Bing search. Google said that Microsoft’s investments in artificial intelligence are a sign of the fierce competition in this sector.
But Nadella downplayed the idea that Microsoft’s investments had a meaningful impact on the search market, where Bing has a 3% market share compared to Google’s 90% share.
The Microsoft chief also told the court that artificial intelligence will lead to this “Worse than the nightmare is making progress in research.” If Google consolidates its advantage by securing exclusive content deals to support Cool while excluding competitors.
Google said it does not have any such exclusive deals with publishers and maintains that its AI models are primarily trained on publicly available data.
In less guarded moments, Google CEO Sundar Pichai scoffed at the idea that chatbots from rival companies would hurt Google’s search business, saying The Wall Street Journal And that “the scope of opportunities, if any, is greater than before.”
Pichai personally acknowledged the connection between Bard and the company’s long-term research ambitions. In an April interview with the magazine, Pichai said AI would “enhance” Google Search, though he did not say when the integration might happen.
Currently, Bard is classified as an “experiment” on Google’s website and is separated from its main search engine.
Users are warned that it is a work in progress and sometimes posts false or inaccurate information — such as the recent incident in which Bard said that Israel and Hamas had reached a ceasefire after the outbreak of the latest war in Gaza, despite no such deal. happened.
Despite Bard’s early hurdles, Luther Lowe, Yelp’s former chief policy officer, warned last month that companies “like Google and Microsoft are already leveraging their existing dominance to control AI applications and critical data sets” in a way that limits consumer choice. And technology. innovation.
“Google plans to integrate Bard into its search engine after the initial beta launch, which means most Americans will get their first serious experience with AI through Google Search.” Lowe wrote in an op-ed. “The average user likely doesn’t realize that Google has silently made Bard its default chatbot as well, stifling competition and innovation from the start.”
“Ultimately, how can any AI startup compete with a chatbot embedded in any search query made by the world’s most visited website?” he added.
Congressional action will likely be necessary to properly address competition concerns around artificial intelligence, according to Christine Bartholomew, a professor at the University of Buffalo School of Law who specializes in antitrust litigation.
“The risk posed by AI tools depends on who is using them. It is very different for Google than for a small startup using such technology,” Bartholomew said.
“Antitrust laws are broad enough to address these risks,” she added. “However, judicial interpretations of such laws have become so narrow that I am concerned about whether current antitrust jurisprudence will accurately address these distinctions.”
Meanwhile, Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), another outspoken critic of Big Tech and a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, reiterated his long-held view that breaking up Google is “the only solution” to ensuring fair competition in the market. AI products are taking hold.
“There is no market on the Internet that Google will not try to conquer,” Hawley told The Washington Post. “Google has vast reserves of Americans’ personal information, and it’s a small step to using that information to train the company’s AI models. In other words: like many other tech companies, Google’s power is endlessly self-reinforcing.”
While the current federal antitrust trial could have major implications for Google and the rest of the tech industry, any such outcome is likely years away. Judge Amit Mehta will first determine whether Google violated antitrust law in a ruling not expected until early next year.
If Google is found to have violated the law, a second trial will be held to determine the appropriate remedy — with possible outcomes ranging from the forced cessation of certain Google business practices to the breakup of the company.
“This type of case is a case where a new law might be put in place and it might go to the Supreme Court and then you’re looking for a settlement,” Buck said. “Everything the judge does here is really the basis for where this case will end up.”
“I think, actually, the government has done a good job of making a strong case,” Pak added.
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