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European Parliament ready to pass landmark AI legislation

The legislation aims to promote "human-centric and trustworthy AI."

June 14, 2023, 2:18 PM

The European Parliament approved landmark legislation Wednesday that aims to regulate the use of artificial intelligence.

Known as the AI Act, the landmark legislation aims to promote "human-centric and trustworthy AI," introducing "obligations for providers and those deploying AI systems," and proposing bans on any intrusive and discriminatory use of the technology.

It is the first of its kind worldwide.

PHOTO: Lawmakers vote on the Artificial Intelligence act, June 14, 2023, at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, eastern France.
Lawmakers vote on the Artificial Intelligence act, June 14, 2023, at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, eastern France.
Jean-Francois Badias/AP

The legislation was voted with an overwhelming majority amongst European Members of Parliament, with 499 voting in favor, 28 voting against, and 93 abstaining from the vote.

Approaching the AI systems based on the level of risk their practices might have, the parliament stated that the legislation is to prohibit AI systems that threaten people's safety with an "unacceptable" level of risk like those that "are used for social scoring classifying people based on their social behavior or personal characteristics."

Also, based on the AI Act, generative AI systems like ChatGPT would need to disclose that content was "AI-generated."

PHOTO: The ChatGPT app is seen on an iPhone in New York, May 18, 2023.
The ChatGPT app is seen on an iPhone in New York, May 18, 2023.
Richard Drew/AP, FILE

The European Parliament also considers the AI systems used to influence voters in elections to be "high-risk."

Elaborating on the "intrusive and discriminatory uses" of the AI, the parliament stated it has prohibited practices like "Real-time" remote biometric identification systems in publicly accessible spaces; and "post" remote biometric identification systems. The latter, though, excepted "the law enforcement only after judicial authorization and for the purpose of the prosecution of serious crimes.

Moreover, "emotion recognition systems in law enforcement, border management, the workplace, and educational institutions" would be prohibited. The same treatment is advised for other practices like "untargeted scraping of facial images from the internet or CCTV footage to create facial recognition databases" due to "violating human rights and right to privacy, "biometric categorisation systems using sensitive characteristics" like gender, race, ethnicity, citizenship status, religion, political orientation, and "predictive policing systems" based on profiling, location or past criminal behavior.

PHOTO: The logo of OpenAI is displayed near a response by its AI chatbot ChatGPT on its website, in this illustration picture, Feb. 9, 2023.
The logo of OpenAI is displayed near a response by its AI chatbot ChatGPT on its website, in this illustration picture, Feb. 9, 2023.
Florence Lo/Reuters, FILE

This month, new research by Amnesty International revealed that surveillance systems used by EU states posed risk of racist policing and profiling: "With such a persistently inhospitable environment towards people fleeing wars and conflict in search of a better life, it is vital that the European Parliament doesn't dismiss the harms of AI systems," Mher Hakobyan, Amnesty's Advocacy Advisor on AI Regulation, said.

Brando Benifei, an Italian member of the European Parliament, spoke following the vote.

"All eyes are on us today. 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," Benifei said.

"We want AI's positive potential for creativity and productivity to be harnesses but we will also fight to protect our position and counter dangers to our democracies and freedoms," Benifei added.

Further negotiations on the finalities of the law are to commence later Wednesday.