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The European Union v. AI — Good Luck On That!

The European Commission has asked digital platforms to create an "Artificial Intelligence label" to alert users of AI-generated texts, photos or videos. But will it be able to stop the tsunami of misinformation?

The European Union v. AI — Good Luck On That!

Artificial Intelligence Robots Market

Pierre Haski


PARIS — How can we continue to trust a text, an image, or a video in the age of artificial intelligence? The question of trust in information has been around for a long time, as we know, but the emergence of powerful tools such as Chat-GPT for text, or Midjourney for photos, and many others, transforms the question into a potential nightmare.

The European Union's executive body, the European Commission, wasted no time in raising the question of how to regulate these technologies, which risk transforming the information space into a jungle. Yesterday, even before the major European law that is being prepared – the AI Law – the Commission took the lead.

It calls on digital platforms to define an AI label that will enable users to know whether a text, photo or video has been generated, in whole or in part, by artificial intelligence. The aim is to limit the explosion of misinformation that could result from these new, unregulated tools.

Realistic fiction

There's no cure-all, as we've seen since the advent of social networks and the tide of misinformation that followed. But it's better than nothing because doing nothing is the surest path to informational chaos.

Informing the reader about the origin of content is a matter of minimum transparency. You can now generate photos that correspond to your precise wishes: I want a Ukrainian soldier carrying a wounded old man in his arms, with a burning building in the background. You'll get this photo even if the scene didn't exist as such.

All the elements of the photo will be real, taken from existing online sources, but the image itself is fictional. A bit like a Napoleonic battle painting. Labeling such a photo as "Artificial Intelligence" is a bare minimum.

AI has shaken the whole world, and the need to regulate it is obvious to all.

The objectivity of a photo, to stay with this example, is an old debate. It all depends on the framing, which can make the shot say different things. It also depends on the "decisive moment", as Cartier Bresson used to say. With artificial intelligence, this debate is outdated; we're in the realm of realistic fiction.

OpenAI logo and the name ''ChatGPT'' displayed on a smartphone backdropped by cropped flag of the European Union

OpenAI Logo, ChatGPT and EU Flag

Andre M. Chang/ZUMA

Most platforms are American

Will digital platforms accept the Commission's request? That's the big question. The Commission is addressing the dozens of digital companies that are part of the "EU Code of Best Practice Against Online Disinformation". This is a voluntary initiative. But Twitter, one of the world's leading networks, has just withdrawn from this European code. Its owner, Elon Musk, is reluctant to accept any constraints in the name of the First Amendment in the U.S. Constitution.

One of the difficulties, of course, is that most of the platforms are American, both legally and philosophically. Europe is certainly a huge market, but it only has the power to regulate, failing to produce the technology and companies that go with it. This is its great weakness.

The fact remains, however, that AI has shaken the whole world, and the need to regulate it is obvious to all. Yesterday, Hollywood's actors' union began negotiating with studios over the rights to use their AI-generated images in the future, when films can be produced without actors.

It's just one of many examples of a wave that is shaking up, above all else, our relationship with truth and fiction. It's staggering.

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Brazil's Evangelical Surge Threatens Survival Of Native Afro-Brazilian Faith

Followers of the Afro-Brazilian Umbanda religion in four traditional communities in the country’s northeast are resisting pressure to convert to evangelical Christianity.

image of Abel José, an Umbanda priest

Abel José, an Umbanda priest

Agencia Publica
Géssica Amorim

Among a host of images of saints and Afro-Brazilian divinities known as orixás, Abel José, 42, an Umbanda priest, lights some candles, picks up his protective beads and adjusts the straw hat that sits atop his head. He is preparing to treat four people from neighboring villages who have come to his house in search of spiritual help and treatment for health ailments.

The meeting takes place discreetly, in a small room that has been built in the back of the garage of his house. Abel lives in the quilombo of Sítio Bredos, home to 135 families. The community, located in the municipality of Betânia of Brazil’s northeastern state of Pernambuco, is one of the municipality’s four remaining communities that have been certified as quilombos, the word used to refer to communities formed in the colonial era by enslaved Africans and/or their descendents.

In these villages there are almost no residents who still follow traditional Afro-Brazilian religions. Abel, Seu Joaquim Firmo and Dona Maura Maria da Silva are the sole remaining followers of Umbanda in the communities in which they live. A wave of evangelical missionary activity has taken hold of Betânia’s quilombos ever since the first evangelical church belonging to the Assembleia de Deus group was built in the quilombo of Bredos around 20 years ago. Since then, other evangelical, pentecostal, and neo-pentecostal churches and congregations have established themselves in the area. Today there are now nine temples spread among the four communities, home to roughly 900 families.

The temples belong to the Assembleia de Deus, the Seventh-day Adventist Church, and the World Church of God's Power, the latter of which has over 6,000 temples spread across Brazil and was founded by the apostle and televangelist Valdemiro Santiago, who became infamous during the pandemic for trying to sell beans that he had blessed as a Covid-19 cure. Assembleia de Deus alone, who are the largest pentecostal denomination in the world, have built five churches in Betânia’s quilombos.

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