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EU lawmakers have approved the terms of landmark legislation to regulate artificial intelligence, moving forward with enacting the world’s most restrictive regime on the development of the technology.
Thierry Breton, European Union Commissioner, confirmed in a post on the X website that an agreement had been reached, describing it as a historic agreement. “The European Union has become the first continent to set clear rules for the use of artificial intelligence,” he wrote. “The AI Code is more than just a rulebook – it serves as a launching pad for EU startups and researchers to lead the global AI race.”
The deal came after years of discussions between member states and members of the European Parliament about the ways in which artificial intelligence should be curbed to put the interest of humanity at the heart of legislation. This came after marathon discussions that began on Wednesday of this week.
Details of the deal were still unfolding after the announcement. Breton said lawmakers agreed on a two-tiered approach, with “transparency requirements for all general-purpose AI models (such as ChatGPT)” as well as “stronger requirements for robust models with systemic effects” across the EU.
Britton said the rules would implement safeguards for the use of AI technology while at the same time avoiding an “excessive burden” on companies.
Among the new rules, lawmakers agreed to impose strict limits on the use of facial recognition technology except for narrowly defined exceptions for law enforcement.
The legislation also includes a ban on the use of AI for “social scoring” — using metrics to determine how straight someone is — and AI systems that “manipulate human behavior to circumvent human free will.”
It is also prohibited to use artificial intelligence to exploit people who are vulnerable because of their age, disability or economic situation.
Companies that do not comply with the rules face fines of 35 million euros, or 7 percent of global revenue.
Some technology groups were not happy. “We have a deal, but at what cost? We fully supported a risk-based approach based on the uses of AI, not the technology itself, but a last-minute attempt to regulate the underlying models,” said Cecilia Bonfield Dahl, managing director of DigitalEurope, which represents the continent’s technology sector. I turned this upside down.
“The new requirements – as well as other sweeping new laws like the Data Act – will require a lot of resources for companies to comply with, resources that will be spent on lawyers rather than hiring AI engineers.”
MEPs had spent years arguing about their position before starting negotiations with member states and the European Commission, the EU’s executive body. The three – national ministries, parliamentarians and the Commission – agreed on the final text on Friday night, allowing the legislation to become law.
European companies have expressed concern that overly restrictive rules imposed on the technology, which is developing rapidly and gained more attention after OpenAI’s ChatGPT rollout, will hinder innovation. In June, dozens of the largest European companies, such as France’s Airbus and Germany’s Siemens, said the rules as they stood were too strict to foster innovation and help local industries.
Last month, the UK hosted a summit on AI safety, leading to wide-ranging commitments from 28 countries to work together to address existential risks posed by advanced AI. The event attracted leading technology figures such as OpenAI’s Sam Altman, who has previously criticized EU plans to regulate the technology.
Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, the EU’s executive body, praised lawmakers for the political agreement on AI rules.
“This is a historic moment,” she said. The Artificial Intelligence Law brings European values into a new era.
She added: “Until the law becomes fully enforceable, we will support companies and developers to anticipate the new rules. Nearly 100 companies have already expressed their interest in joining our AI Charter, under which they will commit on a voluntary basis to implement the key obligations of the law before the legal deadline.”
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