PYMNTS MonitorEdge May 2024

OpenAI Bolsters Lobbying Arm Amid Regulatory Pressure


OpenAI is reportedly expanding its lobbying department as the artificial intelligence industry faces more regulatory oversight.

The multibillion-dollar AI startup aims to have 50 members on its global affairs team by year’s end, up from three at the start of 2023 and 35 currently, the Financial Times (FT) reported Thursday (June 13).

“We are not approaching this from a perspective of we just need to get in there and quash regulations … because we don’t have a goal of maximizing profit; we have a goal of making sure that AGI benefits all of humanity,” said Anna Makanju, OpenAI’s vice president of government affairs, referring to artificial general intelligence, a version of AI that can think and reason on the level — or above the level — of humans.

The global affairs department is OpenAI’s “most international” unit, as it has workers in places where AI legislation is most advanced, including Belgium, Ireland, Singapore, Brazil and the United States, the report said.

But the company still trails its rivals in terms of outreach, per the report. The company spent $340,000 on engaging with the American government in the first quarter of the year, compared to $3.1 million by Google and a record $7.6 million by Meta.

“Walking in the door, [ChatGPT had] 100 million users [but the company had] three people to do public policy,” said David Robinson, who heads policy planning for OpenAI, in the report. “It was literally to the point where there would be somebody high level who would want a conversation, and there was nobody who could pick up the phone.”

The move comes as OpenAI and other AI firms are facing potential antitrust investigations from U.S. regulators such as the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission.

Omar Ochoa, an antitrust lawyer, told PYMNTS earlier this week that the situation is similar to the way the FTC investigated Big Tech like Amazon, Apple, Google and Meta.

“Now, seeing this happen again, but with AI, it is probably a good bet that some lawsuit or administrative action will occur from the investigations because, again, it mirrors what happened a few years ago with Big Tech,” he said.

For all PYMNTS AI coverage, subscribe to the daily AI Newsletter.