OpenAI reverses EU abandonment threats over strict AI regulations

OpenAI has no plans to leave Europe, CEO Sam Altman said on Friday, reversing a threat made earlier this week to leave the region if it becomes too hard to comply with upcoming laws on artificial intelligence.

"We are excited to continue to operate here and of course have no plans to leave," he said in a tweet.

Threatened to leave Europe behind

Earlier this week, Altman said upcoming AI regulations by EU governing bodies could force the ChatGPT creators to leave Europe over the inability to comply with stricter rules.

Altman, who has been making the rounds with European leaders this week, made the proclamation Wednesday at an event in London.

EU parliamentarians are currently in the process of drafting its first set of rules to govern the technology in an effort to tame the rapid growth of AI in accordance with Europe's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) rules.

Leaders have said that the construction of the new AI regulations is meant to reconcile ethical requirements and protect users and democracy while allowing the pursuit of innovation in the sector.

"The current draft of the EU AI Act would be over-regulating, but we have heard it's going to get pulled back," Altman first told Reuters news agency.

Concerns about ChatGPT and other AI tools violating individual privacy rights and EU data collection practices have caused several individual member nations to launch their own investigations and even temporarily restrict access to the large language model.

The draft is expected to set the global benchmark addressing concerns linked to the new AI technology.

Part of the new draft includes one rule which would force companies deploying generative AI tools, such as OpenAI’s ChatGPT, to disclose any copyrighted material used to develop their systems.

The Silicon Valley CEO said that his company, the Microsoft-backed OpenAI, would try to comply with the new rules before making a decision to pull out of the EU market.

OpenAI CEO Sam Altman testifies US lamakers
OpenAI CEO Sam Altman testifies in Washington DC on May 16, 2023.

Earlier this month, EU representatives of the Parliament, the Council, and the Commission reached a consensus on what should be included in the draft.

The lawmakers are expected to hammer out the final details of the bill in an upcoming debate.

The draft also proposes a General Purpose AI System category to encompass any AI tool with multiple applications, such as generative AI models like ChatGPT.

"There's so much they could do like changing the definition of general purpose AI systems," Altman said. "There's a lot of things that could be done."

Earlier this week, Marie-Laure Denis, the head of France's data protection watchdog CNIL told the media that the idea "isn’t to slow down innovation but rather to accompany it."

Altman testified with US lawmakers on Capitol Hill this month, acknowledging that AI poses “serious risks” if allowed to progress unchecked.

Meantime, other tech giants, such as Apple, Amazon, and Meta Platforms, wait to see how Altman will respond to the final regulations.

The tech giants are currently developing and testing their own rival AI generative models for future release.

Earlier this month, Alphabet's Google announced the rollout of its own generative AI model, Bard, to users in the US, with no mention of its release in the EU.

Google's Bard will be made available to users in over 180 countries and territories across the world – except for the EU (and Canada).

Many insiders believe the exclusion is due to Google not wanting to go up against the GDPR's stricter privacy rules.

Last month the European Data Protection Board (EDPB), the umbrella body of all EU privacy watchdog groups, created a ChatGPT task force to keep the AI chatbot – and any of its AI successors – in check.

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