ARTICLE 19 joined a coalition of civil society organisations calling for the first AI treaty, the Council of Europe’s Convention on AI, to equally cover the public and private sectors and to reject blanket exemptions regarding national security. Some states involved in negotiating the draft text are discussing several options that would allow states to limit the applicability of the treaty to public authorities, meaning exemptions would be carved out for private companies. Similar to the EU AI Act, negotiators also foresee an exemption for national security, leaving room for potential human rights abuses. Read the letter below.
OPEN LETTER TO COUNCIL OF EUROPE AI CONVENTION NEGOTIATORS: DO NOT WATER DOWN OUR RIGHTS
We call on the State Parties and the EU negotiating the text of the Framework Convention on Artificial Intelligence, Human Rights, the Rule of Law and Democracy to equally cover the public and private sectors and reject blanket exemptions regarding national security and defence.
The world has witnessed the way in which Al systems that are largely provided and often used by private companies affect people and societies. The Council of Europe is responding to the various calls for regulating Al – but it is about to agree on a Convention on Human Rights, Democracy and the Rule of Law that risks giving companies a free pass.
As the negotiation of the Council of Europe Framework Convention on Artificial Intelligence, Human Rights, Democracy and the Rule of Law is entering its final phases – with the last plenary planned for mid-March – the publicly available Draft Convention indicates that some negotiating states are seeking to weaken the Convention by enabling states to leave private companies, including Big Tech, out of scope. This would result in giving these companies a blank check rather than effectively protecting human rights, democracy and the rule of law.
A hollowed-out Convention will provide little meaningful protection to individuals who are increasingly subject to powerful Al systems prone to bias, human manipulation, and the destabilisation of democratic institutions.
As for public activities, some states are also pushing for a blanket exemption with regard to national security and defence. Nothing justifies the unconditional waiving of the safeguards set in international, European and national law that usually apply in these fields.
Therefore, we, the undersigned citizens, members of civil society organisations, academic and research institutions, experts in artificial intelligence and digital technologies, call on the EU and the State Parties negotiating the text of the Convention to give their unwavering support for the Convention
(i) to cover equally the public and private sectors
(ii) to unequivocally reject blanket exemptions regarding national security and defence.
List of signatories:
AlgorithmWatch & Algorithm Watch CH
Arci – Italy
Association for Progressive Communications – APC
Bangladesh NGOs Network for Radio and Communication (BNNRC)
Citizen D / Državljan D
Center for Al & Digital Policy (CAIDP)
Civil Liberties Union for Europe (Liberties)
Conference of International NGOs of the Council of Europe (CINGO)
Danes je nov dan, Inštitut za druga vprašanja / Today is a new day, Institute for other studies
Defend Digital Me
Democracy and Human Rights Education in Europe (DARE network)
Deutschfe Vereinigung für Datenschutz e.V. (DVD)
Digital Security Lab Ukraine
Digitale Gesellschaft Switzerland
European Broadcasting Union (EBU)
European Center for Not-for-profit Law Stichting (ECNL)
European Civic Forum
European Federation of Journalists (EFJ)
European Network Against Racism (ENAR)
Forum of European Muslim Youth and Student Organisations (FEMYSO)
Global Forum for Media Development
Global Partners Digital
Greek Forum of Refugees (GFR)
Health Action International
Human Rights Cities Network (HRCN)
Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL)
Laboratory of Public Police and Internet (LAPIN)
Legal Center for the Protection of Human Right and the Environment (PIC), Slovenia
Ligue des droits de l’Homme
Reporters Without Borders (RSF)
SFLC.in – India
SMEX – Lebanon
The National Network for Civil Society Germany (BBE)
Wikimedia Deutschland e. V.
Christoph Spreng, Vice-President of the Conference of INGOs
Natali Helberger, Professor in Law and Digital Technology, Institute for Information Law, University of Amsterdam
Judith Membrives i Llorens, Open University of Catalonia, Algorights
Laurens Naudts, Doctoral Researcher, Al, Media & Democracy Lab, Institute for Information Law, University of Amsterdam
Sophie Weerts, Associate Professor of Public Law, Swiss Graduate School of Public Administration, University of Lausanne
Bettina Berendt, Professor for Internet and Society, TU Berlin, Weizenbaum Institute, and KU Leuven
Ariana Dongus, Media scholar & journalist Research Fellow, Technische Universität Dresden
Plixavra Vogiatzoglou, Doctoral Researcher, Amsterdam Center for International Law & Institute for Information Law, University of Amsterdam
Douwe Korff, Emeritus Professor of International Law, London Metropolitan University
Dirk Voorhoof, prof. em. Human Rights Centre Ghent University/Legal Human Academy
Christian M. Stracke, Senior Researcher Al & Open Education, University of Bonn Marc Rotenberg, founder, Center for Al and Digital Policy