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EU Parliament Greenlights Sweeping AI Act

 |  March 13, 2024

The European Union’s parliament has overwhelmingly endorsed pioneering regulatory measures to govern artificial intelligence (AI), marking a significant milestone in global tech governance. The endorsement, which took place on Wednesday, solidifies the EU’s position as a leader in shaping the future of AI technologies.

The EU brokered provisional political consensus in early December, and the agreement was ratified during the Parliament’s session with a notable majority of 523 votes in favor, 46 against, and 49 abstentions, reported CNBC. 

Thierry Breton, the European Commissioner for Internal Market, expressed pride in Europe’s newfound role as a “global standard-setter in AI.” President of the European Parliament, Roberta Metsola, hailed the regulations as “trail-blazing,” emphasizing their potential to foster innovation while safeguarding fundamental rights.

Under the provisions of the EU AI Act, which was conceived in 2021, AI technologies are classified into various risk categories, ranging from “unacceptable” to low hazard. The Act not only sets guidelines for permissible uses of AI but also delineates severe penalties for non-compliance.

Despite widespread support, some EU member states, notably Germany and France, had previously advocated for self-regulation, fearing that stringent measures could stifle Europe’s competitiveness in the global tech arena, particularly against dominant players from China and the United States.

Dragos Tudorache, a lawmaker instrumental in negotiating the agreement, emphasized that while the endorsement marks a significant achievement, the real challenge lies in the implementation phase. The regulation is slated to come into effect by the end of the legislative term in May, pending final checks and endorsement from the European Council, with phased implementation scheduled from 2025 onwards.

This landmark decision comes amidst a broader EU effort to address the burgeoning influence of major tech corporations. Last week, the Union enacted groundbreaking competition legislation, known as the Digital Markets Act, aimed at curbing anti-competitive practices among tech giants. Notably, six prominent firms, including U.S. behemoths like Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, Meta, Microsoft, and China’s Bytedance, have been designated as “gatekeepers” subject to stringent regulatory oversight.

While tech leaders like Microsoft, Amazon, Google, and Nvidia continue to champion AI investment, concerns over its potential misuse and abuse persist.