Jon Stewart on AI, Lina Khan, and the other things Apple didn’t want him to say

Jon Stewart on AI, Lina Khan, and the other things Apple didn’t want him to say


Stewart says Apple asked him not to have FTC Chair Lina Khan on the podcast version of The Problem With Jon Stewart.

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Jon Stewart interviews Lina Khan.
Screenshot: Wes Davis / The Verge

In the months since the cancellation of The Problem With Jon Stewart on Apple TV Plus, the former host of the show, Jon Stewart, has revealed details here and there about the acrimonious relationship with Apple. While interviewing FTC Chair Lina Khan yesterday on The Daily Show about tech companies and antitrust behavior, he revealed more, telling Khan, “I wanted to have you on a podcast,” but Apple “literally said, ‘Please don’t talk to her.’”

The whole episode is worth a watch when you get a chance. The episode’s first segment included Stewart lampooning the hyperbolic promises tech companies frequently make about AI, interspersed with clips of tech execs discussing AI’s potential for replacing human labor or explaining AI-enabled layoffs. Then, he settled down for his interview with Khan — near the end, his former employer came up.

“I didn’t think they cared for you is what happened,” Stewart said. “They wouldn’t let us do even that dumb thing we just did in the first act on AI. What is that sensitivity? Why are they so afraid to even have these conversations out in the public sphere?”

“I think it just shows the danger of what happens when you concentrate so much power and so much decision-making in a small number of companies,” Khan replied.

Khan, who was confirmed as the head of the FTC in 2021, is known for her strong positions on antitrust behavior, particularly from tech companies. Shortly after taking up the role, Khan signaled the FTC’s intent to go after “business models that centralize control and profits.” More recently, the agency has engaged in antitrust lawsuits against Amazon and Microsoft and is currently investigating those companies’ investments (along with Google’s) in OpenAI and Anthropic.

Meanwhile, Apple is embroiled in a new fight with the Department of Justice, which recently filed a lawsuit accusing the company of anticompetitive behavior in such dealings as with the App Store, the Apple Watch, and messaging. The company has also been revamping its approach to its software ecosystem in the EU, where it’s been deemed a gatekeeper under the region’s Digital Markets Act.

Stewart and Apple went their separate ways after just two seasons of his show, with early reports citing “creative differences.” In February, Stewart said during a CBS Mornings interview that Apple canceled the show partly because of his plans to cover topics like AI and China.

Apple, of course, has deep ties with China, one of its biggest manufacturing and customer install bases. It’s been known to make concessions there, like locking down its Chinese App Store to block US apps like YouTube or limiting how AirDrop works after the service was used to spread protest messages in the country. Although the company hasn’t revealed its AI plans quite yet, it’s expected to do so during June’s Worldwide Developers Conference.

Wes Davis

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