European Parliament approves AI Act

The European Parliament on Wednesday gave final approval to the first law regulating the use of artificial intelligence. The new AI act will ban applications that pose unacceptable risks and regulate the use of others.

The act was approved in Strasbourg by 523 MEPs to 46, with 49 abstentions. Member states will soon give the go-ahead for the law to enter into force.

The Parliament stressed that the act strikes a balance between protecting the fundamental rights of EU citizens and safeguarding the innovative nature of the European tech industry. 

Bans and risk scales

The act will introduce risk scales, banning some AI applications because they pose unacceptable risks, such as targeting vulnerable groups. The use of other applications will depend on whether they are classified as high, limited or low risk.

Separate rules have been created for generative AI, which can create its own content, particularly regarding transparency. This was the Parliament's main concern during negotiations with EU countries, Italian co-rapporteur Brando Benifei said on Wednesday.

The act will gradually come into force once the Council has adopted it. Banned AI systems will have to be phased out after six months. Provisions on generative AI will come into force after 12 months.

Starting point

The act is not the end of the journey, but "the starting point for a new model of governance built around technology", said second co-rapporteur Dragos Tudorache. "AI will push us to rethink the social contract at the heart of our democracies, our education models, labour markets and the way we conduct warfare."

Benifei warned that the European Parliament should not rest on its laurels and will have to think about industry-specific legislation, such as the use of AI in the workplace, as early as the next legislature.


MEPs during a voting session at the European Parliament in Strasbourg on 13 March 2024 © FREDERICK FLORIN / AFP

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