The AI Act is a key piece of legislation aimed at regulating Artificial Intelligence based on its potential to cause harm. On Thursday 11th May, the text was adopted by a large majority in a joint vote by the Parliament’s Civil Liberties and Internal Market committees.

The next step in the process is for the proposal to be adopted by the plenary, with June 14th being the tentative date for this to occur. Once MEPs formalize their position, the proposal will enter the final stage of the legislative process and begin negotiations with the EU Council and Commission in what are known as trilogues.

The Internal Market Committee and the Civil Liberties Committee of the European Parliament adopted a draft negotiating mandate on the first-ever rules for Artificial Intelligence (AI) with 84 votes in favor, 7 against, and 12 abstentions. The new rules aim to ensure a human-centric and ethical development of AI in Europe by establishing transparency and risk-management measures for AI systems.

Members of Parliament (MEPs) aim to ensure that AI systems are overseen by people, are safe, transparent, traceable, non-discriminatory, and environmentally friendly. They also want to have a uniform definition for AI designed to be technology-neutral so that it can apply to the AI systems of today and tomorrow.

The rules follow a risk-based approach and establish obligations for providers and users depending on the level of risk the AI can generate. AI systems with an unacceptable level of risk to people’s safety would be strictly prohibited, including systems that deploy subliminal or purposefully manipulative techniques, exploit people’s vulnerabilities or are used for social scoring (classifying people based on their social behavior, socio-economic status, personal characteristics).

Prohibited AI practices

MEPs substantially amended the list to include bans on intrusive and discriminatory uses of AI systems such as:

  • “Real-time” remote biometric identification systems in publicly accessible spaces;
  • “Post” remote biometric identification systems, with the only exception of law enforcement for the prosecution of serious crimes and only after judicial authorization;
  • Biometric categorization systems using sensitive characteristics (e.g. gender, race, ethnicity, citizenship status, religion, political orientation);
  • Predictive policing systems (based on profiling, location or past criminal behavior);
  • Emotion recognition systems in law enforcement, border management, workplace, and educational institutions; and
  • Indiscriminate scraping of biometric data from social media or CCTV footage to create facial recognition databases (violating human rights and right to privacy).

MEPs expanded the classification of high-risk areas to include harm to people’s health, safety, fundamental rights or the environment. They also added AI systems to influence voters in political campaigns and in recommender systems used by social media platforms (with more than 45 million users under the Digital Services Act) to the high-risk list.

MEPs included obligations for providers of foundation models – a new and fast-evolving development in the field of AI – who would have to guarantee robust protection of fundamental rights, health and safety and the environment, democracy and rule of law. They would need to assess and mitigate risks, comply with design, information and environmental requirements and register in the EU database.

Generative foundation models need “AI generated content” disclaimer

Generative foundation models like GPT would have to comply with additional transparency requirements like disclosing that the content was generated by AI designing the model to prevent it from generating illegal content and publishing summaries of copyrighted data used for training.

To boost AI innovation MEPs added exemptions to these rules for research activities and AI components provided under open-source licenses. The new law promotes regulatory sandboxes or controlled environments established by public authorities to test AI before its deployment.

MEPs want to boost citizens’ right to file complaints about AI systems and receive explanations of decisions based on high-risk AI systems that significantly impact their rights. MEPs also reformed the role of the EU AI Office which would be tasked with monitoring how the AI rulebook is implemented.

Before negotiations with the Council on the final form of the law can begin this draft negotiating mandate needs to be endorsed by the whole Parliament with the vote expected during the 12-15 June session.