Europe’s landmark AI Act passes Parliament vote – EURACTIV

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European lawmakers today voted to pass a landmark regulation on artificial intelligence (AI)  in Strasbourg, a file that had garnered major lobbying attention from large tech companies over the past few years. 

After a 523-46 voting result, with 49 abstentions, the act heads down a lengthy and complex implementation path. An AI Office that will guide the process under the Commission’s wing has already started hiring.

The Act sets out a tiered approach to regulation based on how risky applications of the technology are deemed and sets different deadlines for implementing the various requirements.

Some uses of AI, such as algorithm-based social scoring, will be prohibited by the end of 2024. Other uses, such as critical infrastructure, are deemed high-risk and will face stricter rules. Under the current timeline, full implementation will come in 2026.

Tech companies reportedly lobbied heavily on the Act, including French startup Mistral, which was later found to have connections with Microsoft. General-purpose AI models, such as ChatGPT, were a particularly hot topic for discussion, with companies and some governments pushing for a tiered approach instead of horizontal regulation.

Many compromises had to be made, which was evident in today’s press conference in advance of the vote. “We are regulating as little as possible — but as much as needed!” said Thierry Breton, the Commissioner for Internal Market.

The use of real-time biometric identification was also a key part of the negotiations. “If you remember the original position of the European Parliament on this topic of the biometric cameras, it was a complete ban. But we are in a legislative process where negotiations need to be done,” said Brando Benifei, an Italian Member of the E.U. Parliament who acted as co-rapporteur on the file, at a press conference today (13 March).

At the same time, an AI Convention to protect human rights, democracy and the rule of law is currently negotiated in Strasbourg at the Council of Europe, a human rights body.

[Edited by Alice Taylor]

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