European Parliament approves world’s first ever Artificial Intelligence Act

The European Parliament on Wednesday approved the Artificial Intelligence (AI) Act, signaling a significant step towards regulating AI in Europe.

With a strong majority of 499 votes in favour, 28 against, and 93 abstentions, the legislation aims to ensure that AI developed and used in Europe aligns with EU values and rights, including human oversight, safety, privacy, transparency, and non-discrimination.

The new rules take a risk-based approach, establishing obligations for AI providers and users based on the level of risk associated with the technology. Certain AI practices with high risks, like social scoring and intrusive or discriminatory applications, will be prohibited.

This includes systems that identify individuals in real-time or after the fact in public places, categorise people based on sensitive characteristics, use predictive policing, employ emotion recognition in sensitive areas, or create facial recognition databases without proper consent.

Moreover, the legislation expands the definition of high-risk AI applications to include systems that can harm people’s health, safety, fundamental rights, or the environment. It also covers AI used for voter influence and recommender systems on social media platforms with a large user base.
“While Big Tech companies are sounding the alarm over their own creations, Europe has gone ahead and proposed a concrete response to the risks AI is starting to pose,” said Brando Benifei, co-rapporteur of the draft act.

The Act would also require generative AI systems, like ChatGPT, to disclose that the content was AI-generated, which will help distinguish deepfakes and ensure safeguards against generating illegal content. The systems would also be required to share detailed summaries of the copyrighted data used for their training with the public.

To support innovation and small businesses, exemptions are granted for research activities and open-source AI components. The legislation also encourages the creation of regulatory sandboxes, which allow the testing of AI in real-life scenarios before deployment.

The AI Act empowers citizens by enhancing their right to file complaints about AI systems and receive explanations for decisions made by high-risk AI systems that significantly impact their fundamental rights. The role of the EU AI Office will be reformed to oversee the implementation of the AI rulebook.

The European Parliament’s adoption of its negotiating position on the AI Act demonstrates its commitment to balancing innovation with the protection of citizens’ rights in the AI landscape.
The Commission announced its draft rules two years ago aimed at setting a global standard for a technology key to almost every industry and business and in a bid to catch up with AI leaders the United States and China.

The lawmakers will now have to thrash out details with European Union countries before the draft rules become legislation. According to a press release, the aim is to reach an agreement by the end of this year.