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European Parliament Approves Landmark Artificial Intelligence Act

The European Parliament approved on Wednesday a landmark political agreement on artificial intelligence.

The world’s first major set of regulatory rules to govern artificial intelligence, the AI Act provides a legal framework for the development and use of artificial intelligence within Europe, calling for greater transparency as well as setting parameters for high-risk AI.

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European Union officials had struck a provisional deal in December following 37 hours of debates. The bill divides up the technology into risk categories and highlights what is prohibited when it comes to AI, key requirements for using high-risk AI and penalties. Ultimately, the AI Act aims to balance innovation with fundamental rights.

In its release announcing the vote, the European Parliament enumerated several examples of high-risk AI, such as “critical infrastructure, education and vocational training, employment, essential private and public services (e.g. healthcare, banking), certain systems in law enforcement, migration and border management, justice and democratic processes (e.g. influencing elections).”

The bill also states that users should be informed when interacting with a chatbot, and it requires AI systems that generate or manipulate text, image, audio or video content (such as a deep-fake tool) to disclose that the content has been artificially generated or manipulated.

The Council of the European Union is expected to officially adopt the text by the end of the April. The ban on prohibited uses will apply within six months, while general-purpose AI rules including governance will take effect in early 2025.

The European Parliament also cited reactions from a few deputies, including the Internal Market Committee co-rapporteur Brando Benifei, who described is as “the world’s first binding law on artificial intelligence to reduce risks, create opportunities, combat discrimination and bring transparency.”

“Thanks to Parliament, unacceptable AI practices will be banned in Europe and the rights of workers and citizens will be protected,” Benifei continued. He said the AI Office will now be set up to support companies to “start complying with the rules before they enter into force.”

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