The European Parliament committees are expected to adopt a position this week on a proposal to regulate the use of artificial intelligence (AI) within the European Union. The proposal aims to prevent abuses of AI while still promoting innovation. The EU is seeking to be a global leader in regulating AI, which has been a topic of public and corporate interest in recent months.
The EU began moving towards this goal two years ago, with a proposal from the European Commission. EU member states developed their negotiation position at the end of last year. However, the emergence of AI applications such as ChatGPT and Midjourney has raised concerns in the European Parliament and led to a deluge of proposed amendments.
After the committees vote on Thursday, the full European Parliament will vote on the proposal next month. Brando Benifei, one of the lead MEPs on the proposal, believes that it provides a balanced approach that protects individuals while still allowing innovation. AI is a double-edged sword that can save lives through medical advancements but can also be misused by authoritarian regimes for mass surveillance.
For the general public, the arrival of ChatGPT has been a source of fascination, with users signing on to watch it write essays, poems, and translations within seconds. Similarly, AI image-generation tools such as Midjourney and DALL-E have generated interest in creating lookalike Van Goghs or a pope in a puffy jacket, while AI music sites have impressed with their ability to produce human-like singing. However, AI also has the potential to be used maliciously to deceive people and influence public opinion.
Elon Musk and other researchers have called for a moratorium on AI until legal frameworks can catch up with the technology. The European Parliament’s approach follows the main directions set out in the commission’s proposal, which is based on existing EU laws on product safety that require manufacturers to conduct checks.
The EU’s approach involves designating certain AI activities as “high risk.” The commission proposes that this designation should apply to systems in sensitive areas such as critical infrastructure, education, human resources, public order, and migration management. Some proposed rules for this category would require human control over AI, technical documentation, and risk management. Each EU member state would have a supervisory authority to ensure compliance with the rules. Many MEPs want to restrict the criteria for what constitutes “high risk” so that it only covers AI applications that threaten safety, health, or fundamental rights. The Greens group opposes this.
Regarding generative AI such as ChatGPT, the parliament is proposing a specific set of obligations similar to those applied to the “high risk” list. MEPs also want AI companies to have protections against illegal content and copyrighted works that could be used to train their algorithms.
The commission’s proposal already requires users to be notified when they are in contact with a machine, and AI image-generating applications to indicate that their output was created artificially. Outright bans would be rare and would only apply to applications that conflict with European values, such as the mass surveillance and citizen rating systems used in China.
The lawmakers want to prohibit AI from recognizing emotions and remove exceptions that would allow remote biometric identification of people in public places by law enforcement. They also want to prevent the scraping of photos posted on the internet for training algorithms unless authorization is obtained from the individuals concerned.to prevent the scraping of photos posted on the internet for training algorithms unless authorization is obtained from the individuals concerned.