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Elon Musk files lawsuit against OpenAI and Sam Altman amid regulator scrutiny over Microsoft

Elon Musk has taken legal action against OpenAI and its chief executive, seeking to force it to return to its founding principles over profit.
Elon Musk has taken legal action against OpenAI and its chief executive, seeking to force it to return to its founding principles over profit.

Elon Musk has taken legal action against OpenAI and its chief executive, Sam Altman, accusing them of straying from the organisation’s original mission to develop artificial intelligence (AI) for the betterment of humanity.

Musk’s lawsuit, filed in a San Francisco court on Thursday, argues that OpenAI’s recent multibillion-dollar partnership with Microsoft contradicts its commitment to safely build “artificial general intelligence” (AGI), capable of matching or surpassing human intelligence levels.

According to Musk’s lawyers, OpenAI’s collaboration with Microsoft has effectively turned it into a profit-driven entity to “maximise profits” for the tech giant.

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They wrote: “To this day, OpenAI, Inc.’s website continues to profess that its charter is to ensure that AGI ‘benefits all of humanity’.

“In reality, however, OpenAI, Inc. has been transformed into a closed-source de facto subsidiary of the largest technology company in the world: Microsoft.”

The Tesla and SpaceX boss is seeking to force OpenAI to return to its founding principles of developing technology for societal benefits rather than individual gains for executives like Altman or corporations like Microsoft.

Microsoft and OpenAI’s alliance is currently also under scrutiny from competition regulators in the US, EU, and UK.

In December, the UK’s competition watchdog announced it is inviting comments on whether the partnership between Microsoft and OpenAI, the creator of Chatgpt, has “resulted in a relevant merger situation”, and if that merger could impact competition in the UK.

OpenAI has declined to comment on the lawsuit. Microsoft did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Musk, one of OpenAI’s co-founders who had donated $44m to the organisation, departed from its board in 2018 due to disagreements with Altman.

Tensions heightened when OpenAI established a for-profit arm, attracting $1bn in investment from Microsoft.