Council of Europe ministerial conference tackles AI and freedom of expression

Held online on 10 and 11 June 2021, the Council of Europe’s Conference of ministers responsible for media and information society concluded with the adoption of a final declaration and four resolutions covering freedom of expression and digital technologies, the safety of journalists, the changing media and information environment, and the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on freedom of expression. Among other provisions, the documents highlighted the profound impact of different forms of artificial intelligence (AI) on the exercise and enjoyment of the right to freedom of expression. Against this backdrop, the ministers committed to ensure that further integration of AI into public communication spaces and the media occurs in full respect of freedom of expression and other human rights. They also committed to reach out to all actors involved in the design, development, and deployment of AI tools for the creation, moderation, and distribution of online content, and to develop collaborative and/or co-regulatory approaches to such processes. Such approaches may include legally binding regulation where appropriate, providing for effective protection of freedom of expression in the digital environment, while fostering safety, straightforward access to legal remedies, and independent oversight over content moderation practices. Moreover, they pledged to create the necessary regulatory conditions for ensuring that automated processes for creating and disseminating news, including through tools such as natural language processing, robo-journalism and algorithmically prepared newsfeeds, be used in full respect of the right to freedom of expression. Finally, the Council of Europe was invited to develop guidance on the impact of AI and other digital technologies on freedom of expression at the level of communications between individuals, within newsrooms, and in public communication spaces. Other actions to be undertaken include the elaboration of ethical codes for media actors (including online platforms) to promote the transparent and responsible use of AI tools in the newsroom, protect from the dangers of personal data exploitation, and ensure exposure to a diversity of media content and sources.