Tech giant Meta is facing backlash after touting its new Llama 2 artificial intelligence (AI) system as "open source" despite imposing significant restrictions on commercial use.

Meta announced the release of Llama 2 this week, promoting it as an open and free AI model. However, the license agreement includes some major caveats.

Companies with more than 700 million monthly active users, like Google, Amazon and Apple, must get express permission from Meta to use the technology commercially. A real open source development does not discriminate in this regard, according to critics.


Meta CTO Andrew Bosworth took to Twitter, saying “Llama 2 is open source and available free today for developers, researchers, and entrepreneurs.” The company’s AI head Yann LeCun also tweeted that Llama 2’s license “authorizes commercial use!”

In response, the Open Source Initiative (OSI), an organization that promotes open source software, called out Meta publicly —in a not so nice way— telling LeCun to watch his language, defining open source and explaining why Meta’s LLaMA-2 doesn’t fit the bill: “Congratulations but please watch your language: The term Open Source has a clear, well understood meaning that excludes putting any restrictions on commercial use,” OSI replied to LeCun.

According to OSI, true open source licenses must allow software to be used, modified and shared by anyone for any purpose. Specifically, they cannot "discriminate against persons or groups or fields of endeavor" as stated in points 2.1.5 and 2.1.6 of OSI's open source definition. By limiting commercial use for major tech companies, Llama 2's license fails to meet this open source criteria.


This is just another black spot in Meta’s ventures with AI LLMs. The company is currently under investigation for an unauthorized release of its previous LlaMA 1 AI system. However, it is important to note that Meta has been a key player in the open source AI industry with 692 contributions in Huggingface (one of the world’s largest open source AI communities). That’s more than either Google with 593 contributions or Microsoft with 252 contributions.

Meanwhile, Microsoft has partnered with Meta on Llama 2 — but it’s not exclusive. The company also has a major partnership with OpenAI, the chief competitor to Llama. This allows Microsoft to back both horses in the AI race: A closed, proprietary system via OpenAI and an “open” one through Meta.

The tech world continues debating AI ethics and policies amidst rapid advancements. Meta may aim to frame itself as a champion of open source, but faces skepticism on whether it’s worthy of championing the community. The company's handling of this high-stakes technology merits close scrutiny in the months ahead.

Generally Intelligent Newsletter

A weekly AI journey narrated by Gen, a generative AI model.