OpenAI’s CEO’s threat to leave the EU is drawing backlash from lawmakers

  • OpenAI’s Altman warns the EU not to over-regulate
  • EU lawmakers are contesting Altman’s claim that they can water down the EU’s AI law
  • The EU law could be the first set of rules worldwide to regulate AI
  • Italian regulators accused OpenAI of ignoring European privacy rules

LONDON/STOCKHOLM, May 25 (Reuters) – For months, Sam Altman, CEO of Microsoft-backed (MSFT.O) OpenAI, has been urging lawmakers around the world to re-regulate the technology. On Wednesday, he threatened that the ChatGPT maker would leave the EU if the bloc became “over-regulated”.

Altman has been traveling across Europe for the past week, meeting with top politicians in France, Spain, Poland, Germany and the UK to discuss the future of AI and the progress of ChatGPT.

More than six months after OpenAI unveiled its AI-powered chatbot ChatGPT to the world, fears surrounding its potential have sparked excitement and alarm — and brought it into conflict with regulators.

One place Altman failed to arrive this week was Brussels, where EU regulators are working on the long-awaited EU AI law, which could be the first set of rules worldwide to regulate AI.

Altman canceled a planned visit to Brussels, according to two sources familiar with the matter. OpenAI did not respond to a request for comment.

“The current draft of the EU’s AI law would be over-regulatory, but we have heard it will be withdrawn,” Altman said in London on Wednesday.

EU lawmakers responsible for shaping the AI ​​law disputed Altman’s claims. “I don’t see any dilution happening for now,” Dragos Tudorache, a Romanian MEP who leads the drafting of EU proposals, told Reuters.

“Nevertheless, we are pleased to invite Mr Altman to Parliament so that he can express his concerns and hear the views of European lawmakers on these issues,” he said.

EU industry chief Thierry Breton also criticized the threat, saying the draft rules are non-negotiable.

On Thursday, OpenAI is expected to discuss in greater detail how to regulate AI amid Altman’s busy schedule of meetings with world leaders such as UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and French President Emmanuel Macron.


Dutch MEP Kim van Sparrentak, who also worked on the EU bill, said she and her colleagues “should not allow themselves to be blackmailed by US companies”.

“If OpenAI cannot meet the basic requirements for data management, transparency, safety and security, then their systems are not suitable for the European market,” she said.

In February, ChatGPT set a record for the fastest growing user base of any consumer application app in history.

OpenAI first ran afoul of regulators in March, when Italian data regulator Garante shut down the app domestically, accusing OpenAI of violating European privacy rules. ChatGPT came back online after the company introduced new privacy measures for users.

Meanwhile, EU lawmakers have added new proposals to the bloc’s AI law, forcing any company using generative tools such as ChatGPT to disclose copyrighted material used to train its systems.

EU parliamentarians agreed on the draft law earlier this month. Member States, the European Commission and Parliament will work out the final details of the bill.

Through the Council of Europe, individual member states such as France or Poland can also request amendments ahead of the bill’s possible adoption later this year.


While the legislation has been in the making for several years, new provisions specifically targeting generative instruments were drafted just weeks before the proposals were voted on.

Reuters previously reported that some lawmakers had initially proposed banning copyrighted material used to train generative AI models, but this was abandoned in favor of stricter transparency requirements.

“These provisions mainly relate to transparency, which ensures that the AI ​​and the company building it are trustworthy. I see no reason why a company should shy away from transparency,” Tudorache said.

Nils Rauer, a technology partner at law firm Pinsent Masons, said it was “no surprise” that Altman made his remarks as lawmakers worked through their proposals.

“OpenAI is unlikely to turn its back on Europe. The EU is too important economically,” he said. “You can’t cut off the internal market, with almost 500 million people and an economy of 15 trillion euros ($16.51 trillion”).

Altman was in Munich, Germany, on Thursday, where he said he met Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

Sergey Lagodinsky, a German MEP who also worked on the legislation, said that while Altman may be trying to push its agenda among individual countries, Brussels’ plans to regulate the technology were “well underway”.

“There could be some changes, of course,” he said. “But I doubt they’ll change the overall trajectory.”

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Reporting by Martin Coulter and Supantha Mukherjee; additional reporting by Alexander Huebner in Munich and Andreas Rinke in Berlin; Edited by Susan Fenton

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Principles of Trust.

Supantha Mukherjee

Thomson Reuters

Supantha leads the European technology and telecom coverage, with a special focus on emerging technologies such as AI and 5G. He has been a journalist for about 18 years. He joined Reuters in 2006 and has covered a variety of beats ranging from the financial sector to technology. He is based in Stockholm, Sweden.

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