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PACE President tells ministers: ‘We need to regulate AI before AI regulates us’

PACE President Rik Daems, addressing Council of Europe media ministers by teleconference, has again called for a transparent and clearly defined legal and ethical framework for Artificial Intelligence based on principles already spelled out by the Assembly.

“We need to regulate AI before AI regulates us,” the President pointed out, welcoming the current work of Council of Europe experts and partners in this area. He recalled that such regulation should be based on principles of transparency, fairness, human accountability, security and data protection, as listed in a series of seven recent PACE reports on AI.

The information society and rapid technological progress had already had an enormous impact on the way we live, communicate and share opinions, the President noted, suggesting that “social media” had become, at times, “asocial media”. A certain degree of regulation was now essential: “You cannot have human rights, fundamental rights, remain within the area of self-regulation.”

He invited the ministers and experts to consider the simple idea that anything illegal “in the real world” should be treated exactly the same in the digital domain, and suggested including not just “a right to know” but “a right to know the truth” among the so-called new generation of rights, as one simple way of helping to combat disinformation and misinformation.

The President also highlighted the essential role of accurate and quality information during the period of Covid-19 or other times of crisis, and highlighted the Assembly’s extensive work in this area. “I repeat: it is vital to ensure freedom of expression in general and freedom of the media in particular. Quality of information is of vital importance, not only for democratic processes, but also for effectively combating the virus.”