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Meta pauses AI models launch in Europe due to Irish request

By Foo Yun Chee

BRUSSELS (Reuters) -Meta Platforms will not launch its Meta AI models in Europe for now after the Irish privacy regulator told it to delay its plan to harness data from Facebook and Instagram users, the U.S. social media company said on Friday.

The move by Meta came after complaints and a call by advocacy group NOYB to data protection authorities in Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland and Spain to act against the company.

At issue is Meta's plan to use personal data to train its artificial intelligence (AI) models without seeking consent, although the company has said it would use publicly available and licensed online information.

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Meta on Friday said the Irish privacy watchdog had asked it to delay training its large language models (LLMs) using public content shared by Facebook and Instagram adult users.

"We're disappointed by the request from the Irish Data Protection Commission (DPC), our lead regulator, on behalf of the European DPAs ... particularly since we incorporated regulatory feedback and the European DPAs have been informed since March," the company said in an updated blogpost.

It said the Irish request is a step backwards for European innovation and competition in AI development.

"Put simply, without including local information we'd only be able to offer people a second-rate experience. This means we aren't able to launch Meta AI in Europe at the moment," Meta said.

The DPC welcomed Meta's pause, saying its decision came after intensive engagement with the regulator.

Meta said the delayed launch of its AI models would also allow it to address requests from Britain's Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).

The ICO welcomed Meta's decision, saying it would continue to monitor major developers of generative AI, including Meta, to review the safeguards they have put in place and ensure the information rights of UK users are protected.

NOYB's chair Max Schrems attributed Meta's temporary halt to the group's complaints filed last week.

"So far there is no official change of the Meta privacy policy, which would make this commitment legally binding. The cases we filed are ongoing and will need a determination," he said in a statement.

(Reporting by Foo Yun Chee; Additional reporting by Padraic Halpin in Dublin and Muvija M in London; Editing by Sudip Kar-Gupta, Andrea Ricci and Jan Harvey)