EU Parliament approves AI Act by a wide margin.

By Mark Kelly


In a historic development, the European Union Parliament has endorsed the world’s inaugural comprehensive set of regulatory guidelines designed to govern the swiftly evolving domain of Artificial Intelligence. 

The EU AI Act was approved at the Parliament’s Wednesday session, with 523 votes in favour, 46 against and 49 votes not cast. This monumental decision follows extensive negotiations and marks a notable stride forward in addressing the potential risks and benefits associated with AI technology.

The EU AI Act, originating in 2021, is being celebrated as a groundbreaking legislative framework aimed at fostering responsible advancement and utilisation of AI systems. Through the categorisation of AI technologies according to their risk levels, ranging from “unacceptable” to low hazard, the act seeks to strike a delicate balance between promoting innovation and safeguarding fundamental rights.

Thierry Breton, the European Commissioner for the internal market, said: “Europe is NOW a global standard-setter in AI,” highlighting the EU’s dedication to shaping the trajectory of AI governance. The adoption of the AI Act represents a significant milestone for the EU, positioning it as a frontrunner in establishing ethical guidelines for emerging technologies.

Roberta Metsola, President of the European Parliament, has stressed the pivotal role of the act in fostering innovation while ensuring accountability. She has lauded it as “trailblazing,” recognising its role in seamlessly integrating AI into existing legislative frameworks.

Nevertheless, the path to effective AI regulation does not conclude with the enactment of the act. Implementation poses a substantial challenge, as noted by Dragos Tudorache, a key figure in EU negotiations, who acknowledges that the true test lies in translating regulatory principles into actionable policies.

One pivotal aspect of the AI Act is its prohibition of certain high-risk uses of AI, such as social scoring systems and manipulative techniques. Through the imposition of stringent rules and disclosure requirements, the act aims to tackle concerns regarding the misuse of AI, including the proliferation of deepfakes and disinformation.

While the EU’s proactive stance on AI regulation has garnered praise from experts and industry stakeholders, it has also triggered debates and criticisms. Some EU nations, including Germany and France, have pushed for less restrictive regulations, citing fears that stringent measures could hinder innovation and competitiveness with global tech giants.

Critics of the AI Act have expressed concerns about its enforcement mechanisms and the reliance on self-assessment by companies to determine the risk level of their AI systems. They argue that robust regulatory oversight is necessary to ensure compliance and safeguard individuals’ rights amidst the rapid advancement of AI technologies.

Nevertheless, the adoption of the AI Act represents a significant milestone in international AI regulation. Legal professionals and industry experts view it as a blueprint for other nations to emulate, establishing a precedent for responsible AI governance in the digital era.

Looking forward, the effective implementation of the AI Act will necessitate collaboration among policymakers, businesses, and civil society to address emerging challenges and opportunities. 

As AI continues to shape our society and economy, it is crucial to strike a balance between innovation and ethical considerations, ensuring that AI serves the greater good while upholding fundamental rights and values.