The European Commission has initiated a comprehensive inquiry into the risks posed by generative AI technology on some of the world’s largest online platforms and search engines.

The March 14 request targets eight online services: Google Search, Microsoft Bing, Facebook, X, Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok, and YouTube.

The European Commission said:

“The questions relate to both the dissemination and the creation of Generative AI content.”

These platforms have been requested to furnish detailed information on their risk management strategies, particularly in relation to AI-induced “hallucinations,” the spread of deepfakes, and the automated manipulation of content that could potentially mislead voters.

The Commission’s inquiry extends to a broad spectrum of concerns, including the impact of generative AI on electoral integrity, the spread of illegal content, the safeguarding of fundamental rights, gender-based violence, child protection, and mental health. The request encompasses both the creation and dissemination of content generated by AI technologies.

The partial focus on election issues follows the agency’s broader efforts to mitigate the risks posed by the rise of AI, including the introduction of the Digital Services Act (DSA).

The DSA mandates Very Large Online Platforms (VLOPs) and Very Large Online Search Engines (VLOSEs) to adhere to a comprehensive set of regulations designed to combat the dissemination of illegal content and mitigate any adverse effects on fundamental rights, electoral processes, mental well-being, and child protection.

Responses due in April

Each service must provide the requested information regarding elections by April 5 and must provide information regarding other categories by April 26.

Failure to provide accurate, complete, and transparent information may result in substantial penalties. The Commission has emphasized its authority to impose fines for any responses deemed incorrect, incomplete, or misleading.

Additionally, should the platforms fail to respond within the stipulated timeframe, the Commission could enforce compliance through a formal decision-making process, potentially leading to further financial penalties.

This initiative marks a significant step in the enforcement of the DSA and highlights the EU’s commitment to mitigating the risks associated with digital technologies and ensuring a safe online environment.

The news comes months after reports of a separate EU initiative called the Artificial Intelligence Act, which bans certain biometrics applications of AI while carving out exceptions for law enforcement.

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