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China backs UN pledge to ban (its own) social rating – POLITICO

Oh, the IA-rony.

China on Tuesday signed a United Nations pledge to prevent artificial intelligence from wreaking havoc in societies, including banning the use of AI for “social rating” systems – a practice Beijing has itself – even popularized in recent years and currently used to rate Chinese citizens. based on their perceived reliability.

There is growing global pressure to introduce binding rules for AI practices such as social scoring and facial recognition in public places that are considered to endanger human rights and civil liberties.

But the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) is the first international organization to get Beijing to adhere to the principles calling for an end to ubiquitous mass surveillance using AI.

The 193 member countries of UNESCO on Tuesday approved a one-of-a-kind recommendation on the ethics of AI. At the heart of the text is a warning to governments to steer clear of dangerous technology use cases because they threaten civil rights.

“Anytime you’re not sure that the development of certain technologies is going to have a negative impact but assume that they might, don’t. It’s that simple, ”UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Social and Human Sciences, Gabriela Ramos, who has led the organization’s AI efforts, told POLITICO’s AI: Decoded in an interview before the deal.

The UN text calls on technologists to conduct ethical impact assessments and governments to put in place “strong enforcement mechanisms and corrective measures” to protect human rights. It also encourages governments to devote public funds to promoting diversity in technology, protecting communities from the carbon footprint of AI technologies.

The UN recommendations are voluntary. Ramos declined to say whether she thinks China, the creator of the social rating system, would really ban their own system according to the recommendation.

The fact that Russia and China want to engage is a good sign, Ramos said: “In the end, we have to be [held] indebted. And sometimes it’s even difficult to delve into accountability and responsibility in the digital world.

Under pressure

The United States, home to the world’s largest AI companies, is not part of UNESCO and is not a signatory to the new recommendation.

But Ramos argued that peer pressure is a powerful tool and that the United States could find itself in a fight similar to that of taxing digital platforms if it does not engage in global rule-making. on ethical AI.

“You can say, ‘I don’t care, because I don’t want to tax my platforms.’ But if the rest of the world taxes platforms, then you need to start a discussion, ”she said.

UNESCO’s Ramos expects his organization’s voluntary recommendation to influence negotiations on the EU’s artificial intelligence bill, which would be the world’s first legally binding law on AI.

The bill, proposed in April, creates product safety rules for “high-risk” AI that can harm humans. It also prohibits certain “unacceptable” uses of AI, such as social scoring and the use of remote biometric identification in public places by law enforcement agencies, except to combat serious crimes, such as terrorism.

UNESCO’s recommendation is “the code to change the [AI sector’s] business model, more than anything, ”Ramos said.

“It is time for governments to reaffirm their role of having good quality regulations, encouraging good use of AI and reducing bad use,” she said.

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