Microsoft Corp.’s partnership with OpenAI Inc. is facing the potential of a full-blown UK antitrust investigation three weeks after a mutiny at the ChatGPT creator laid bare deep ties between the two companies.
The Competition and Markets Authority said Friday it was gathering information from stakeholders to determine whether the collaboration between the two firms threatens competition in the UK, home of Google’s AI research lab Deepmind. Microsoft fell 0.7% in premarket trading.[time-brightcove not-tgx=”true”]
Microsoft has benefited richly from its investments, totaling as much as $13 billion, in OpenAI. By integrating OpenAI’s products into virtually every corner of its core businesses, the software giant very quickly established itself as the undisputed leader of AI among big tech firms. Rival Alphabet Inc.’s Google has been racing to catch up ever since.
The firing — and subsequent rehiring — of Sam Altman as chief of OpenAI last month exposed how inextricably linked the two companies have become. Microsoft shares fell immediately after OpenAI’s board ousted Altman. Microsoft chief executive officer Satya Nadella personally helped negotiate and advocate for his return to the company — at one point offering to hire Altman himself, along with other employees at OpenAI who wanted to leave.
OpenAI’s board eventually agreed to reinstate Altman. The company recently named a three-person interim board and added Microsoft as a nonvoting observer.
Microsoft President Brad Smith said in a statement Friday that “the only thing that has changed is that Microsoft will now have a non-voting observer on OpenAI’s board.” He described its relationship with OpenAI as “very different” from Google’s outright acquisition of DeepMind in the UK. OpenAI didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Smith had said as recently as last month that he didn’t “see a future where Microsoft takes control of OpenAI.”
The CMA said it will look at whether the balance of power between the two firms has fundamentally shifted to give one side more control or influence over the other. When asked to comment on the CMA’s move, a European Commission spokesperson said the regulator had been “following the situation of control over OpenAI very closely.”
The move by the CMA puts Microsoft under the antitrust microscope once again. Its acquisition of video-game giant Activision Blizzard was subjected to nearly two years of regulatory scrutiny before gaining approval in the UK less than two months ago.
At the core of the partnership between Microsoft and OpenAI is the massive amounts of computer power required to keep the worldwide boom in generative AI going. Running the systems behind tools such as ChatGPT and Google’s Bard has sent demand for cloud services and processing capacity soaring. OpenAI, for example, has become a major customer of Microsoft’s cloud business.
In turn, all three of the world’s biggest cloud-computing providers — Microsoft, Amazon.com Inc., and Google — have become active investors in AI startups.
These large firms have used such deals and tie-ups to “co-opt and neutralize potential rivals” in AI, said Max von Thun, director of Europe for Open Markets Institute, a think tank. “It is essential that antitrust authorities move quickly to investigate these deals, including unwinding them if necessary.”
Source: Tech – TIME | 9 Dec 2023 | 2:31 am
Apps and websites that use artificial intelligence to undress women in photos are soaring in popularity, according to researchers.
In September alone, 24 million people visited undressing websites, the social network analysis company Graphika found.
Many of these undressing, or “nudify,” services use popular social networks for marketing, according to Graphika. For instance, since the beginning of this year, the number of links advertising undressing apps increased more than 2,400% on social media, including on X and Reddit, the researchers said. The services use AI to recreate an image so that the person is nude. Many of the services only work on women.[time-brightcove not-tgx=”true”]
These apps are part of a worrying trend of non-consensual pornography being developed and distributed because of advances in artificial intelligence — a type of fabricated media known as deepfake pornography. Its proliferation runs into serious legal and ethical hurdles, as the images are often taken from social media and distributed without the consent, control or knowledge of the subject.
The rise in popularity corresponds to the release of several open source diffusion models, or artificial intelligence that can create images that are far superior to those created just a few years ago, Graphika said. Because they are open source, the models that the app developers use are available for free.
“You can create something that actually looks realistic,” said Santiago Lakatos, an analyst at Graphika, noting that previous deepfakes were often blurry.
One image posted to X advertising an undressing app used language that suggests customers could create nude images and then send them to the person whose image was digitally undressed, inciting harassment. One of the apps, meanwhile, has paid for sponsored content on Google’s YouTube, and appears first when searching with the word “nudify.”
A Google spokesperson said the company doesn’t allow ads “that contain sexually explicit content.”
“We’ve reviewed the ads in question and are removing those that violate our policies,” the company said.
A Reddit spokesperson said the site prohibits any non-consensual sharing of faked sexually explicit material and had banned several domains as a result of the research. X didn’t respond to a request for comment.
In addition to the rise in traffic, the services, some of which charge $9.99 a month, claim on their websites that they are attracting a lot of customers. “They are doing a lot of business,” Lakatos said. Describing one of the undressing apps, he said, “If you take them at their word, their website advertises that it has more than a thousand users per day.”
Non-consensual pornography of public figures has long been a scourge of the internet, but privacy experts are growing concerned that advances in AI technology have made deepfake software easier and more effective.
“We are seeing more and more of this being done by ordinary people with ordinary targets,” said Eva Galperin, director of cybersecurity at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. “You see it among high school children and people who are in college.”
Many victims never find out about the images, but even those who do may struggle to get law enforcement to investigate or to find funds to pursue legal action, Galperin said.
There is currently no federal law banning the creation of deepfake pornography, though the U.S. government does outlaw generation of these kinds of images of minors. In November, a North Carolina child psychiatrist was sentenced to 40 years in prison for using undressing apps on photos of his patients, the first prosecution of its kind under law banning deepfake generation of child sexual abuse material.
TikTok has blocked the keyword “undress,” a popular search term associated with the services, warning anyone searching for the word that it “may be associated with behavior or content that violates our guidelines,” according to the app. A TikTok representative declined to elaborate. In response to questions, Meta Platforms Inc. also began blocking key words associated with searching for undressing apps. A spokesperson declined to comment.
Source: Tech – TIME | 8 Dec 2023 | 7:55 pm
(SANTA FE, N.M.) — Facebook and Instagram fail to protect underage users from exposure to child sexual abuse material and let adults solicit pornographic imagery from them, New Mexico’s attorney general alleges in a lawsuit that follows an undercover online investigation.
“Our investigation into Meta’s social media platforms demonstrates that they are not safe spaces for children but rather prime locations for predators to trade child pornography and solicit minors for sex,” Attorney General Raul Torrez said in a statement Wednesday.[time-brightcove not-tgx=”true”]
The civil lawsuit filed late Tuesday against Meta Platforms Inc. in state court also names its CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, as a defendant.
In addition, the suit claims Meta “harms children and teenagers through the addictive design of its platform, degrading users’ mental health, their sense of self-worth, and their physical safety,” Torrez’s office said in a statement.
Those claims echo a lawsuit filed in late October by the attorneys general of 33 states, including California and New York, against Meta that alleges Instagram and Facebook include features deliberately designed to hook children, contributing to the youth mental health crisis and leading to depression, anxiety and eating disorders. New Mexico was not a party to that lawsuit.
Investigators in New Mexico created decoy accounts of children 14 years and younger that Torrez’s office said were served sexually explicit images even when the child expressed no interest in them. State prosecutors claim that Meta let dozens of adults find, contact and encourage children to provide sexually explicit and pornographic images.
The accounts also received recommendations to join unmoderated Facebook groups devoted to facilitating commercial sex, investigators said, adding that Meta also let its users find, share, and sell “an enormous volume of child pornography.”
“Mr. Zuckerberg and other Meta executives are aware of the serious harm their products can pose to young users, and yet they have failed to make sufficient changes to their platforms that would prevent the sexual exploitation of children,” Torrez said, accusing Meta’s executives of prioritizing “engagement and ad revenue over the safety of the most vulnerable members of our society.”
Meta, which is based in Menlo Park, California, did not directly respond to the New Mexico lawsuit’s allegations, but said that it works hard to protect young users with a serious commitment of resources.
“We use sophisticated technology, hire child safety experts, report content to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, and share information and tools with other companies and law enforcement, including state attorneys general, to help root out predators,” the company said. “In one month alone, we disabled more than half a million accounts for violating our child safety policies.”
Company spokesman Andy Stone pointed to a company report detailing the millions of tips Facebook and Instagram sent to the National Center in the third quarter of 2023 — including 48,000 involving inappropriate interactions that could include an adult soliciting child sexual abuse material directly from a minor or attempting to meet with one in person.
Critics including former employees have long complained that Meta’s largely automated content moderation systems are ill-equipped to identify and adequately eliminate abusive behavior on its platforms.
Source: Tech – TIME | 8 Dec 2023 | 5:30 am
(LONDON) — European Union talks on world-leading comprehensive artificial intelligence regulations were paused Thursday after 22 straight hours, with officials yet to hammer out a deal on a rulebook for the rapidly advancing technology behind popular services like ChatGPT.[time-brightcove not-tgx=”true”]
European Commissioner Thierry Breton tweeted that talks, which began Wednesday afternoon in Brussels and ran through the night, would resume on Friday morning.
“Lots of progress made over past 22 hours” on the EU’s Artificial Intelligence Act, he wrote. “Stay tuned!”
Representatives of the bloc’s 27 member states, lawmakers and executive commissioners are under the gun to secure a political agreement for the flagship AI Act. They spent hours wrangling over controversial points such as generative AI and AI-powered police facial recognition.
There was disagreement over whether and how to regulate foundation models, the advanced systems that underpin general purpose AI services like ChatGPT and Google’s Bard chatbot.
EU lawmakers also want a full ban on facial recognition systems because of privacy concerns, but they are at odds with governments from member countries that want to use it for law enforcement.
Officials are eager to sign off on a deal in time for final approval from the European Parliament before it breaks up for bloc-wide elections next year. They’re also scrambling to get it done by the end of December, when Spain’s turn at the rotating EU presidency ends.
Once it gets final approval, the AI Act wouldn’t take effect until 2025 at the earliest.
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