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EU lawmakers take first steps toward tougher AI rules

May 11, 2023

Two EU parliamentary committees have backed setting up rules on how generative artificial intelligence like ChatGPT can be used in Europe. Once approved, they would become "the world's first rules" on AI technology.

 A visitor watches an AI (Artificial Intelligence) sign on an animated screen
The EU is taking steps to implement the world's first regulations on artificial intelligence technology — but there's a long road ahead before it becomes lawImage: JOSEP LAGO/AFP/Getty Images

Key committees in the European Parliament  voted to back draft legislation on artificial intelligence along with its amendments to reign in generative AI like ChatGPT.

The vast majority of European lawmakers (MEPs) on the committee on civil liberties and on consumer protection voted in favor of the draft AI Act.

According to a statement released after the vote, the text outlines curbs on how the technology can be used across Europe while simultaneously allowing for innovation.

The draft rules will now be presented to the full parliament next month for adoption. Afterwards, details will be finalized with the EU member states and the European Commission before it is made into a final law.

Fact check: How to spot AI images?

The AI-regulations have become more urgent in the face of the rapid development of ChatGPT — which has shown the benefits and opportunities provided by the advanced tech, but also shows the perils of the fake content it can generate.

After the vote, co-rapporteur Brando Benifei of Italy said in a statement, "We are on the verge of putting in place landmark legislation that must resist the challenge of time. It is crucial to build citizens' trust in the development of AI."

"We are confident our text balances the protection of fundamental rights with the need to provide legal certainty to businesses and stimulate innovation in Europe," he added.

What is the AI Act?

First proposed in 2021, the AI Act would set out rules governing any product and service that uses an artificial intelligence system.

Based on the four ranks of AI (between minimal to unacceptable), riskier applications will face tougher rules, require more transparency and accuracy.

Policing tools which aim to predetermine where crimes will happen and by whom, are expected to be banned. Remote facial recognition technology will also be banned with the exception of countering and preventing a specific terrorist threat.

Everything AI systems can already do

The aim is "to avoid a controlled society based on AI," Benifei had said earlier on Wednesday. "We think that these technologies could be used instead of the good also for the bad, and we consider the risks to be too high."

While the original document does not cover chatbots at length, lawmakers added an amendment to put ChatGPT and similar generative AI on the same level as high-risk systems.

Once approved, the EU says the law would comprise "the world's first rules on artificial intelligence."

The agreement between the two parliamentary committees on Thursday is merely the first step in a long and grueling bureaucratic process which could take years before it becomes a law across the EU's 27-member bloc.

mk/rs (AFP, AP)