EU moves towards a law to govern the use of AI

The European Parliament has taken the first steps towards passing a law governing the use of artificial intelligence (AI). The law would ensure that AI developed and used in Europe is fully in line with EU rights and values, including human oversight, safety, privacy, transparency, non-discrimination and social and environmental wellbeing. 499 MEPs voted in favour of adopting the Artificial Intelligence (AI) Act, with 28 against and 93 abstentions.  

It would ban the use of AI for biometric surveillance, emotion recognition and predictive policing, while generative AI systems like ChatGPT would have to disclose the fact that content was AI-generated. MEPs also voted to ensure that the classification of high-risk applications will now include AI systems that pose significant harm to people’s health, safety, fundamental rights or the environment. AI systems used to influence voters and the outcome of elections and in “recommender systems” used by social media platforms with over 45m users were also added to the high-risk list.

After the vote, MEP Brando Benifei said: “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. We want AI’s positive potential for creativity and productivity to be harnessed but we will also fight to protect our position and counter dangers to our democracies and freedoms during the negotiations with Council”.

MEP Dragos Tudorache added: “The AI Act will set the tone worldwide in the development and governance of artificial intelligence, ensuring that this technology, set to radically transform our societies through the massive benefits it can offer, evolves and is used in accordance with the European values of democracy, fundamental rights, and the rule of law”.

Talks will now be held with EU member states on the final shape of the law.

Flavia Colombo, Country Manager, UK and Ireland at HubSpot, said the regulators must take care not to stifle creativity and innovation. “Whether it’s the European Unions Artificial Intelligence Act (AIA), United States Algorithmic Accountability Act or Chinas Algorithmic Management Regulations, they all act as a double-edged sword for marketing firms and professionals,” she said. 

“On the one hand, they foster trust and accountability, providing clear guidelines on how AI should be designed and utilised. This transparency can enhance customer trust, vital in an era where data privacy and ethical use of AI is a growing concern. In this respect, these acts could bolster the reputation of tech firms and foster a closer relationship between consumers and AI-driven technologies.

“On the other hand, they could hamper innovation. The pace of technology is rapid and constantly evolving. While legislation is necessary, it must also be adaptive or it risks becoming a straitjacket that stifles industry creativity and slows down technological advances. Its crucial regulation evolves in lockstep with the technology it governs to make the most of its vast potential.”