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Committee calls for 'legally binding instrument' for democratic governance of AI

“There is a need for a global regulatory framework for AI, with principles based on the protection of human rights, democracy and the rule of law,” said the Political Affairs Committee today, which proposed that the Committee of Ministers support the elaboration of a “legally binding instrument” governing AI, possibly in the form of a convention.

While AI produces many benefits, including improving government transparency and democratic participation, it can also disrupt democracy “through interference in electoral processes, personalised political targeting, shaping voters’ behaviours and manipulating public opinion,” the parliamentarians stressed, by adopting a report by Deborah Bergamini (Italy, EPP/CD). AI has also been used “to amplify the spread of misinformation, propaganda, 'echo chambers' and hate speech,” they added.

In addition, the adopted text indicates that some States and private actors use AI to control individuals such as automated filtering of information or mass surveillance using smartphones. “These practices risk undermining civil rights and political freedoms and the emergence of digital authoritarianism,” the committee said.

The legally binding instrument advocated by the committee should ensure that AI-based technologies are developed and implemented in compliance with Council of Europe’s standards and ethical principles such as transparency, fairness, security and privacy. With regard to the functioning of institutions, it should also ensure that AI promotes government accountability, the fight against corruption, and more direct democracy.