Big tech companies may begin to avoid launching new products in the European Union over the AI Act, an industry expert has warned. (Photo Illustration by Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)


Big Tech ‘may shun EU’ over AI Act


Big Tech companies might start to avoid launching new products in the European Union due to the new Artificial Intelligence Act, an industry expert has warned.

While Richard Wingfield, the tech director at Business for Social Responsibility (BSR) and a British Liberal Democrat politician, remained positive about the act’s potential overall, he warned it could nonetheless negatively impact businesses.

“There’s the potential for companies to say, ‘Well okay, perhaps we are not going to operate in Europe now so much,’” he said, speaking on behalf of BSR, a membership organisation supported by hundreds of companies including Microsoft, Google and Facebook owner Meta.

Wingfield went on to cite the example of Google’s Gemini chatbot, which has had its usage curtailed within EU markets due to limitations already in force within the bloc, such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

“It’s certainly foreseeable that you could see other companies say: ‘We are going to launch our products and services around the world, except in the EU, because we are not sure we are compliant,’” he said.

“In some ways that might be a good thing, as it means dangerous products and services don’t become available within the EU,” Wingfield added.

“It could also mean frustration for EU consumers who aren’t able to access the same benefits of AI that might exist in other parts of the world.”

He made his comments during a panel discussion on the wider successes and failings of the AI Act which, despite much criticism from numerous businesses and civil society organisations, looks set to become law.

Speaking at the same discussion on how AI might impact human rights, senior parliamentary aide Lidiya Simova stated that, while not perfect, from her perspective the details of the agreed act provided Brussels with the chance to begin effectively controlling the use and application of AI.

When quizzed on whether a more piecemeal or limited approach should have been taken by the bloc, the Socialists & Democrats (S&D) staffer said MEPs had no choice on the matter and that it was ultimately the European Commission’s decision on how to proceed.

“We are bound by the proposal that we receive,” Simova said.

“We receive a proposal from the Commission in the way that we receive it and, as I said, we try to do our best with what we are given – but we cannot go too much drastically outside of the box.”

Simova added she “didn’t have an answer” to the question of why a more limited approach was not taken by the EC, although she emphasised that such an alternative would likely have presented its own problems.

“Would it have been better? I think making legislation piece by piece is not the best solution because you risk having loopholes.”

Simova went on to claim that, while a more limited approach sounds “neat” in theory, it would also probably result in some elements falling “between the cracks”.

“There is no right answer,” she concluded.