EU Lawmakers Take a Crucial Step Toward Regulation of AI Systems

Category Machine Learning

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On Thursday, May 17th, 2023 the European Parliament lawmakers took the first step towards creating rules on the use of AI systems. The creation of these rules is meant to protect citizens against potential threats caused by AI, while still fostering innovation in the sector.

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European Parliament lawmakers on Thursday took a crucial first step towards EU-wide regulation of ChatGPT and other artificial intelligence systems that Brussels hopes to put speedily in place.

Parliamentary committees on civil liberties and consumer protection overwhelmingly voted for a position text calling for curbs on how AI can be used in Europe, while still fostering innovation in the sector.

The legislation could be put into force as soon as this Summer.

The text is to be put to the full parliament next month for adoption before negotiations with EU member states on a final law.

Lawmakers called Thursday's vote "historic" and hoped it would lead to "the world's first rules on artificial intelligence".

Their text picks up the main lines from a European Commission proposal made two years ago, but suggests adding bans on biometric surveillance, emotion recognition and predictive policing AI systems.

The GDPR has been extended to cover AI systems.

It seeks to put generative AI systems such as ChatGPT and Midjourney in a category requiring special transparency measures, such as notifications to users that the output was made by a machine, not a human.

The parliament's text also seeks additional criteria as to what constitutes a "high-risk" AI area of application, which could reduce the scope of that designation.

The commission proposed list covers AI in critical infrastructure, education, human resources, public order and migration management.

The European Commission proposed list of AI applications covers a broad range of daily activities and aspects of people's lives.

But the MEPs want an additional threshold to be met, requiring that threats to safety, health or fundamental rights are also deemed to be in play.

--- Companies see innovation threat --- .

The CCIA, a European industry lobby group representing major tech companies, said that, while "the parliament made some useful improvements to the text", it was "abandoning the risk-based structure" of the European Commission's proposal.

AI software such as ChatGPT and Midjourney has sparked an online rush to create lookalike Van Goghs.

"The best way for the EU to inspire other jurisdictions is by ensuring that new regulation will enable, rather than inhibit, the development of useful AI applications," said CCIA policy manager for Europe, Boniface de Champris.

The European Consumer Organization though endorsed the parliament injecting "beefed-up protections for consumers" in its text compared to the commission one.

"Although AI may improve our lives in many ways, there are well-founded concerns that AI systems can also harm consumers. People must be properly protected against the risks of these new technologies," said Ursula Pachl, deputy director of the organization.

The tech industry sees the potential regulation as a threat to innovation.

While EU work towards legislation has been going on for some time, the potential—and potential perils—of AI has exploded into the public consciousness only in the last few months, since ChatGPT burst onto the scene at the end of last year.

Image-generation AI such as Midjourney and DALL-E have since sparked an online rush to make lookalike Van Goghs or a pope in a high fashion puffer jacket, while AI music sites have impressed with their ability to produce human-like singing.

AI music sites have impressed with their ability to produce human-like singing.

"It's enough to turn on the TV since the last two, three months, almost every day, to see how important this file is becoming for citizens," said one of the lead MEPs on the European Parliament text, Drago Tudorache.

Policymakers in Europe and other regions in the world are increasingly concerned how the technology can be used for fakery, to fool people and sway public opinion and elections.

That has spurrerd the EU to make a swift move to create rules on the use of artificial intelligence systems.

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