Helsinki conference Presents Guidance to Ensure Artificial Intelligence Benefits All


downloadA two-day High-Level Conference on Artificial Intelligence (AI) has presented a communiqué that sets guidance for the way forward to ensure that AI development occurs safely, benefits society and minimises risks to human rights, democracy and the rule of law.

Taking cognizance of the fact that the economic benefits deriving from AI cannot be realised without duly respecting the potential for economic growth and innovation of AI, the guidance recommends that timely and thoughtful policy responses should be placed at the top of governments’ political agendas; States and all stakeholders should coordinate efforts and, inter alia, share information and good practices; and that AI should be developed in a human-centric manner to produce benefits for individuals and for societies.

The Conference which took place on February 26 and 27, 2018 in Helsinki, Finland explored the theme: “Governing the Game Changer – Impacts of artificial intelligence development on human rights, democracy and the rule of law”.

It was declared open by the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Thorbjørn Jagland; the Finish Minister for Foreign Affairs, Timo Soini and the Minister of Justice of France, Nicole Belloubet. The second and final day of the conference was declared opened by the Justice Minister of Finland, Antti Häkkänen and Liliane Maury Pasquier, President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.

It brought together over 400 high-level experts from governments, international organisations, businesses, technology, academia, civil society and the media for open and inclusive discussions on how to address AI development to maximise benefits for society and minimise risks to human rights, democracy and the rule of law.

In his opening speech, Timo Soini said: “New technology, the collection of massive amounts of data, and the use of information, has already changed the lives of people all over the world. Yet, I believe that the “Big Bang” has yet to come. Questions to be raised include: Are some groups neglected or do they face special challenges due to biased algorithms? What happens to democracy, security and accountability? What are the impacts of artificial intelligence on justice systems? How can we ensure that artificial intelligence supports the advancement of democracy and the rule of law?”

“We must remain extremely mindful of manipulations of opinion through the propagation of false news, including during election campaigns,” Nicole Belloubet warned adding “This is the reason why France passed a law relating to the fight against manipulation of information in December 2018. The law imposes transparency obligations to online platforms on the contents of sponsored information as well as on the identity of the sponsors. This law also establishes an emergency judicial procedure to fight against the dissemination of inaccurate or misleading information or allegations.”

Thorbjørn Jagland reminded participants that: “The Artificial Intelligence revolution long forecast is no longer something for the future. We are already living it, here and now.” He therefore cautioned: “So the goal of this Conference must be to separate fact from fiction, to distinguish clearly what are the real advantages that AI offers, what are the risks that accompany them, and how best can we prevent and mitigate the dangers they pose. For the Council of Europe, we are taking a leading role in helping our member states to harvest the opportunities that come with technological innovation while safeguarding the standards emanating from the European Convention on Human Rights and other legal benchmarks.

The Conference guidance also recommended the following:

Effective supervisory mechanisms and democratic oversight structures regarding the design, development and deployment of AI must be in place;

  • Public awareness of the potential risks and benefits of AI must be enhanced and necessary new competencies and skills developed;
  • Effective and legitimate mechanisms to prevent human rights violations and thwart discrimination, inequality and bias are necessary;
  • Algorithmic transparency is crucial for building trust and ensuring due rights protection;
  • Equality before the law should not be compromised by algorithmic calculation;
  • AI must be compiled with to ensure that technological progress occurs in line with the principles of human rights, democracy and rule of law and respecting existing landmark international instruments;
  • The Council of Europe should continue to develop sector-specific recommendations, guidelines and codes of conduct to promote human rights and the viability of democratic institutions and processes. The Council of Europe should monitor the impact of AI on the collective foundations of democratic societies.

An exhibition space, “AI in Action”, allowed the participants to explore the work of the different stakeholders and actors on the field of AI.

A key message of the Helsinki conference is that more research, understanding, trust and transparency are needed with regard to AI, as well as multi-stakeholder cooperation.

The Conference was organised by the Council of Europe and the Finnish Presidency of the Committee of Ministers.