Regulating Artificial Intelligence – EU shows the way, Australia lags

AI has been in the news for some time, especially since the publication of an open letter just over a year ago signed by more than 30,000 individuals, including pre-eminent AI experts and industry executives, expressing concern about the existential threat Artificial Intelligence poses to the world. Many, including here at Fremantle Shipping News, have fun dabbling with generative AI platforms like Chat GPT, but wider and deeper questions about AI, where it is headed and what its implications are for everything we humans currently do, arise daily. World Governments got together in Bletchley UK last year to confer, and they’re doing the same again right now in Seoul. Last year Australia produced a voluntary AI ethics code and a set of principles. In the meantime, the EU Artificial Intelligence Act has just come into operation. What does the EU law aim to do and will Australia follow?

Just two months ago, in March 2024, the EU Parliament adopted the Artificial Intelligence Act.

It provides a model for the rest of the world, and certainly for Australia where concern about AI is growing as awareness rises about just what AI can do; and how it does it.

Australia has a Voluntary AI Ethics Code and Principles but as yet no law. The question will increasingly be asked here, when, not whether, Australia will pass its own Artificial Intelligence Act.

Credit Andrea de Santis

Wide ranging questions about AI and its regulation are currently being discussed by Governments, corporations, researchers and policy makers at the second major summit of its kind in Seoul, South Korea after the first summit last November in Bletchley, UK.

The EU Parliament’s aim has been to make sure that AI systems used are safe, transparent, traceable, non-discriminatory and environmentally friendly. It believes AI systems should be overseen by people, rather than by automation, to prevent harmful outcomes.

Parliament also wants to establish a technology-neutral, uniform definition for AI that can be applied to future AI systems.

The EU’s new rules establish obligations for providers and users depending on the level of risk from artificial intelligence. While many AI systems pose minimal risk, they still need to be assessed.

Unacceptable risk

Under the EU approach, ‘Unacceptable risk’ AI systems are systems considered a threat to people and will be banned.

They include:
* Cognitive behavioural manipulation of people or specific vulnerable groups: for example voice-activated toys that encourage dangerous behaviour in children
* Social scoring: classifying people based on behaviour, socio-economic status or personal characteristics
* Biometric identification and categorisation of people
* Real-time and remote biometric identification systems, such as facial recognition

Some exceptions may be allowed for law enforcement purposes. ‘Real-time’ remote biometric identification systems will be allowed in a limited number of serious cases, while ‘post’ remote biometric identification systems, where identification occurs after a significant delay, will be allowed to prosecute serious crimes and only after court approval.

High risk

AI systems that negatively affect safety or fundamental rights will be considered high risk under the EU law and will be divided into two categories:

1. AI systems that are used in products falling under the EU’s product safety legislation. This includes toys, aviation, cars, medical devices and lifts.

2. AI systems falling into specific areas that will have to be registered in an EU database:
* Management and operation of critical infrastructure
* Education and vocational training
* Employment, worker management and access to self-employment
* Access to and enjoyment of essential private services and public services and benefits
* Law enforcement
* Migration, asylum and border control management
* Assistance in legal interpretation and application of the law.

All high-risk AI systems will be assessed before being put on the market and also throughout their lifecycle.

People will have the right to file complaints about AI systems to designated national authorities.

Transparency requirements

Generative AI, like ChatGPT, will not be classified as high-risk, but will have to comply with transparency requirements and EU copyright law:
* Disclosing that the content was generated by AI
* Designing the model to prevent it from generating illegal content
* Publishing summaries of copyrighted data used for training

High-impact general-purpose AI models that might pose systemic risk, such as the more advanced AI model GPT-4, would have to undergo thorough evaluations and any serious incidents would have to be reported to the European Commission.

Content that is either generated or modified with the help of AI – images, audio or video files (for example deepfakes) – need to be clearly labelled as AI generated so that users are aware when they come across such content.

Supporting innovation

The law aims to offer start-ups and small and medium-sized enterprises opportunities to develop and train AI models before their release to the general public.

That is why it requires that national authorities provide companies with a testing environment that simulates conditions close to the real world.


The EU Parliament adopted the Artificial Intelligence Act in March 2024. It will be fully applicable 24 months after entry into force, but some parts will be applicable sooner:
* The ban of AI systems posing unacceptable risks will apply six months after the entry into force
* Codes of practice will apply nine months after entry into force
* Rules on general-purpose AI systems that need to comply with transparency requirements will apply 12 months after the entry into force

High-risk systems will have more time to comply with the requirements as the obligations concerning them will become applicable 36 months after the entry into force.

By Michael Barker, Editor, Fremantle Shipping News


* If you’d like to COMMENT on this or any of our stories, don’t hesitate to email our Editor.


*** Don’t forget to SUBSCRIBE to receive your free copy of The Weekly Edition of the Shipping News each Friday!

****AND Shipees, here’s how to ORDER YOUR FSN MERCH. Fabulous Tees with great options now available!