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DOJ's Apple Lawsuit: How Jon Stewart's Disclosure Could Help

How Jon Stewart's disclosure about Apple's restrictions could impact the DOJ's fight against the tech giant. Ramifications for antitrust and speech control.


Mr. Roboto

4/3/202412 min read

John Stewart and Lina Khan
John Stewart and Lina Khan

In a surprising turn of events, comedian Jon Stewart may have inadvertently aided the Department of Justice (DOJ) in its ongoing battle against Apple.

During a recent interview with Federal Trade Commission Chair Lina Khan, Stewart revealed that Apple had explicitly instructed him not to interview her while he was working for the tech giant. This disclosure has potential ramifications for the DOJ's antitrust lawsuit against Apple, as it could bolster the argument that the company is using its smartphone monopoly to control other markets and restrict content.

Antitrust advocates argue that Stewart's remarks shed light on Apple's broad power and its ability to dictate winners and losers in various industries. However, critics argue that this alone does not prove any anti-competitive behavior on Apple's part. The DOJ has yet to comment on Stewart's statements, but the episode has already sparked bipartisan concern over the ability of tech companies to stifle speech.

Background on the DOJ's Fight with Apple

Antitrust lawsuit against Apple

The Department of Justice (DOJ) has filed an antitrust lawsuit against Apple, accusing the tech giant of using restrictive policies to lock in consumers and box out competitors across various products. The lawsuit alleges that Apple's conduct goes beyond just monopoly profits and affects the flow of speech, particularly in the realm of TV and movie production.

Accusations against Apple

The DOJ, along with 16 state and district attorneys general, accuses Apple of leveraging its alleged smartphone monopoly to exert power over other markets. The allegations include pushing to stifle content in streaming and podcasts, as well as using its control over the iPhone as a key gateway to dictate and constrain innovation.

Apple's response

Apple has strongly denied the allegations made in the lawsuit, stating that they are wrong on both the facts and the law. The company has vowed to vigorously defend itself against the legal action taken by the DOJ and the state and district attorneys general.

Bipartisan concern over tech companies' speech control

The issue of tech companies' control over speech has drawn bipartisan concern, with both Democrats and Republicans recognizing the potential dangers of concentrated power in the hands of these companies. The DOJ's case against Apple is seen as part of a broader effort to address and prevent anticompetitive behavior and protect the free exchange of information and ideas.

Jon Stewart's Disclosure

Stewart's revelation about Apple's opposition to interviewing FTC Chair

During an interview with Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Chair Lina Khan on "The Daily Show," Jon Stewart disclosed that Apple had urged him not to interview Khan while he was working for the company as a show and podcast host. Stewart revealed that Apple had explicitly told him not to talk to Khan, which prompted him to book her as a guest on the show once he returned to Comedy Central.

Implications for the DOJ's case against Apple

Stewart's disclosure has potential implications for the DOJ's antitrust case against Apple. It provides additional evidence of Apple's efforts to exert control and influence over who can be interviewed and what topics can be discussed. This aligns with the DOJ's allegations that Apple is using its power to stifle speech and content in various markets.

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Antitrust advocates' perspective

Antitrust advocates view Stewart's remarks as a useful illustration of the breadth of Apple's power and how the company uses that power to pick winners and losers across markets. They argue that Apple's control over market entry, particularly through the iPhone, allows the company to dictate and constrain innovation and to determine what speech is allowed.

Apple's control over market entry and speech

Stewart's comments highlight concerns about Apple's control over market entry and its potential impact on speech. By controlling the iPhone, which serves as a gateway for users to access various content and services, Apple can exercise significant influence over what content is available and who gets to produce it. This raises questions about the concentration of power and its impact on competition and free expression.

Different Perspectives on Stewart's Remarks

American Economic Liberties Project's viewpoint

The American Economic Liberties Project, a left-leaning advocacy group focused on stricter antitrust enforcement, sees Stewart's remarks as a valuable illustration of Apple's power in controlling and influencing speech. They argue that Apple's ability to shape content and determine what speech is tolerated is indicative of broader issues with market concentration and the need for stronger antitrust enforcement.

Cato Institute's viewpoint

The Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank, cautions against drawing firm conclusions solely based on Stewart's comments. They argue that content creators, like Stewart, have the freedom to make choices about where they want to produce their content. They emphasize that the streaming market is highly competitive, and that Apple's actions alone do not provide sufficient evidence of anti-competitive behavior.

Stewart's comments alone not sufficient evidence of anti-competitive behavior

While Stewart's remarks shed light on Apple's approach to interviews and control over speech, they are not in themselves sufficient evidence of anti-competitive behavior. It is important to consider the broader context and examine the actions and policies of Apple within the framework of antitrust laws to determine if there are violations.

The Importance of Antitrust Enforcement

Antitrust chief Jonathan Kanter's viewpoint

Antitrust chief Jonathan Kanter stresses the importance of antitrust enforcement, particularly in markets related to news and information that impact political discourse. He asserts that competition in these markets is crucial for the free flow of information, news, and ideas, as well as for a healthy and functioning democracy. Kanter's stance aligns with the DOJ's efforts to protect competition and prevent the concentration of power in the hands of a few tech companies.

Protecting competition in markets related to news and information

Antitrust enforcement plays a vital role in protecting competition in markets related to news and information. By preventing anti-competitive practices, such as the alleged conduct by Apple, the DOJ aims to ensure a level playing field that allows for diverse voices and viewpoints to thrive. This is essential for a vibrant democracy and the exchange of ideas.

Justice Department's decline to comment on the remarks

The Justice Department, in response to Jon Stewart's comments, declined to provide a specific comment. While this may be due to ongoing legal proceedings and the need to maintain impartiality, it also highlights the sensitivity and significance of the issues raised by Stewart's disclosure of Apple's opposition to interviewing FTC Chair Lina Khan.

Role of the FTC in the Lawsuit

FTC's role in the Apple lawsuit

Although the FTC is not leading the lawsuit against Apple, it plays a crucial role in addressing competition issues and promoting consumer welfare. The FTC's mandate includes investigating and challenging anti-competitive practices, which aligns with the allegations made against Apple in the DOJ's lawsuit.

Public acknowledgment from FTC Chair Lina Khan

FTC Chair Lina Khan publicly acknowledged Jon Stewart for having her on his show and discussing how monopolies can abuse their power to bully, coerce, and censor speech. This acknowledgment highlights the importance of raising awareness about the potential dangers of concentrated power in the hands of tech companies and the need for robust antitrust enforcement.

Bipartisan concern over tech companies' ability to stifle speech

The disclosure of Apple's opposition to interviewing FTC Chair Lina Khan has attracted rare bipartisan concern over tech companies' ability to stifle speech. Both Democrats and Republicans recognize the potential dangers of concentrated power and the potential impact on democracy and free expression. This bipartisan acknowledgment underscores the significance of the issue and the need for appropriate measures to address it.

Conservative Perspective on Big Tech Censorship

Conservatives' perspective on Big Tech censorship

Conservatives have been vocal about their concerns regarding Big Tech censorship. They argue that powerful tech companies like Apple have the ability to silence voices that do not align with their own biases. Conservatives highlight the potential threat posed by concentrated power, emphasizing that the ability to silence one group indicates the ability to silence others as well.

Apple's power to silence voices

Apple's control over market entry and its alleged opposition to interviewing FTC Chair Lina Khan raises concerns about the company's ability to silence voices. Conservatives argue that this concentration of power can lead to the suppression of diverse viewpoints, limiting free speech, and hindering open discussion.

Antitrust lawyer's opinion on the threat of power concentration

Antitrust lawyer Mark Meador, who has worked on behalf of Apple complainants, emphasizes the threat posed by power concentration. He notes that a corporation powerful enough to silence conservatives is also powerful enough to shut out liberal views. The concentration of power in the hands of a few tech companies is seen as a threat not only to specific groups but to the principles of democracy and free expression as a whole.

The Conflict between Stewart and Apple