Exclusive-Germany, France and Italy reach agreement on future AI regulation

FILE PHOTO: Illustration shows AI (Artificial Intelligence) letters and computer motherboard

By Andreas Rinke

BERLIN (Reuters) -France, Germany and Italy have reached an agreement on how artificial intelligence should be regulated, according to a joint paper seen by Reuters, which is expected to accelerate negotiations at the European level.

The three governments support "mandatory self-regulation through codes of conduct" for so-called foundation models of AI, which are designed to produce a broad range of outputs. But they oppose "un-tested norms."

"Together we underline that the AI Act regulates the application of AI and not the technology as such," the joint paper said. "The inherent risks lie in the application of AI systems rather than in the technology itself."

The European Commission, the European Parliament and the EU Council are negotiating how the bloc should position itself on this topic.

The paper explains that developers of foundation models would have to define model cards, which are used to provide information about a machine learning model.

"The model cards shall include the relevant information to understand the functioning of the model, its capabilities and its limits and will be based on best practices within the developers community," the paper said.

"An AI governance body could help to develop guidelines and could check the application of model cards," the joint paper said.

Initially, no sanctions should be imposed, the paper said.

If violations of the code of conduct are identified after a certain period of time, however, a system of sanctions could be set up.

Germany's Economy Ministry, which is in charge of the topic together with the Ministry of Digital Affairs, said laws and state control should not regulate AI itself, but rather its application.

Digital Affairs Minister Volker Wissing told Reuters he was very pleased an agreement had been reached with France and Germany to limit only the use of AI.

"We need to regulate the applications and not the technology if we want to play in the top AI league worldwide," Wissing said.

State Secretary for Economic Affairs Franziska Brantner told Reuters it was crucial to harness the opportunities and limit the risks.

"We have developed a proposal that can ensure a balance between both objectives in a technological and legal terrain that has not yet been defined," Brantner said.

As governments around the world seek to capture the economic benefits of AI, Britain in November hosted its first AI safety summit.

The German government is hosting a digital summit in Jena, in the state of Thuringia, on Monday and Tuesday that will bring together representatives from politics, business and science.

Issues surrounding AI will also be on the agenda when the German and Italian governments hold talks in Berlin on Wednesday.

(Reporting by Andreas Rinke; Writing by Maria Martinez; Editing by Mike Harrison, Barbara Lewis and Diane Craft)