European lawmakers pass world's first major act to regulate AI


2024-04-21 13:09:08



The European Union’s parliament on Wednesday approved the world’s first major set of regulatory ground rules to govern the mediatized artificial intelligence at the forefront of tech investment.

The EU brokered provisional political consensus in early December, and it was then endorsed in the Parliament’s Wednesday session, with 523 votes in favor, 46 against and 49 votes not cast.

“Europe is NOW a global standard-setter in AI,” Thierry Breton, the European commissioner for internal market, wrote on X.

The president of the European Parliament, Roberta Metsola, described the act as trailblazing, saying it would enable innovation, while safeguarding fundamental rights.

“Artificial intelligence is already very much part of our daily lives. Now, it will be part of our legislation too,” she wrote in a social media post.

Dragos Tudorache, a lawmaker who oversaw EU negotiations on the agreement, hailed the deal, but noted the biggest hurdle remains implementation.

Born in 2021, the EU AI Act divides the technology into categories of risk, ranging from “unacceptable” — which would see the technology banned — to high, medium and low hazard.

The regulation is expected to enter into force at the end of the legislature in May, after passing final checks and receiving endorsement from the European Council. Implementation will then be staggered from 2025 onward.

Key points about the Act:

  • Risk-based approach: The EU classifies AI systems based on their risk level (unacceptable, high, medium, low). High-risk applications, like facial recognition in law enforcement, face stricter regulations. Unacceptable uses, like social scoring systems, are banned entirely.
  • Focus on ethics and safety: The Act prioritizes human rights, fairness, and transparency in AI development. For instance, it requires clear explanations for AI decisions that could impact people's lives.
  • Boosting Innovation: The EU wants to be a leader in responsible AI development. The Act aims to create a clear legal framework for companies, fostering trust and encouraging investment in ethical AI.