The Parliament Assembly of the Council of Europe has adopted a new resolution on the Need for Democratic Governance of Artificial Intelligence. The Assembly called for “strong and swift action” by the Council of Europe. The parliamentarians warned that “soft-law instruments and self-regulation have proven so far not sufficient in addressing these challenges and in protecting human rights, democracy and rule of law.”
“AI can bring about economic and social progress, and improve government transparency and democratic participation, but it can also be used to disrupt democracy through interference in electoral processes, or manipulating public opinion,” the parliamentarians stressed, adopting unanimously a resolution based on the report of Deborah Bergamini (Italy, EPP/CD). She warned that filtering information and mass surveillance, enabled by AI, “risk undermining civil rights and political freedoms and the emergence of digital authoritarianism.”
The Council of Europe resolution also follows extensive work by the COE Ad Hoc Committee on Artificial Intelligence (CAHAI). In September 2020 the COE Committee of Ministers approved the CAHAI progress report, which concluded that the “Council of Europe has a crucial role to play today to ensure that AI applications are in line with human rights protections.” The Ministers asked the CAHAI to draft a feasibility study on a legal instrument that could “regulate the design, development and application of AI that have a significant impact on human rights, democracy and the rule of law.” The COE Ministers also proposed that the CAHAI should examine “human rights impact assessments” and “certification of algorithms and AI systems.”
The COE is a leader in the realm of international legal instruments and human rights. All Council of Europe member states have signed up to the European Convention on Human Rights, a treaty designed to protect human rights, democracy and the rule of law. And Article 8 of that Convention has done much to shape modern privacy law. There are 47 member states, including the 27 members of the European Union. COE Conventions are also open for ratification by non-member state. The original COE Convention on Privacy (Convention 108) was ratified by 56 countries.
Parliamentarians with both the Council of Europe and the European Union have now made clear the need to adopt legislation for the democratic governance of Artificial Intelligence. And the Social Contract for the Age of AI, developed in collaboration with the Boston Global Forum and the Club of Madrid, also urges governments to pass laws to ensure that AI respects fundamental rights and benefits society. The Boston Global Forum and the Club be Madrid now propose a new Democratic Alliance for Digital Governance to promote and to enforce the Social Contract.
Marc Rotenberg, Director
Center for AI and Digital Policy at Michael Dukakis Institute
The Center for AI and Digital Policy, founded in 2020, advises governments on technology policy