The world’s top streaming service Netflix revealed in a new internal report it calls Environment Social Governance that it has taken down nine pieces of content around the world in response to written complaints and demands from governments.
The 23-year old company began conforming to such controversial censorship requests after 2015, in order to better conform to various countries’ laws and societal norms, according to Axios. It’s the first such revelation of active censorship admitted by the company.
The majority of government requests for removal came from the religiously diverse but staunchly morally conservative island city-state of Singapore. Other movies or series were taken down at the request of New Zealand, Vietnam, Germany, Brazil and Saudi Arabia — the latter instance for politically embarrassing and sensitive jokes about crown prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Netflix conformed, for example, to a Saudi government request last year for the 2019 removal of comedian Hasan Minhaj “Patriot Act” standup special, related to references to the state-sponsored murder of Jamal Khashoggi. Netflix CEO Reed Hastings had defended the controversial move by saying, “We’re not in the truth to power business, we’re in the entertainment business.”
In another instance, a Brazilian court ordered Netflix to remove the comedy special “The First Temptation of Christ,” after complaints from conservative Catholic groups over it’s portraying Jesus as gay and other issues seen as sacrilegious. But the ruling was recently overturned by Brazil’s Supreme Court. Singapore has, however, removed the film for its viewers.
Also of note is that in 2017 Netflix complied with the removal of Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket at the request of the government of Vietnam.
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Here are all nine that were removed:
1) “The Bridge” – removed by New Zealand in 2015
“In 2015, we complied with a written demand from the New Zealand Film and Video Labeling Body to remove The Bridge from the service in New Zealand only. The film is classified as ‘objectionable’ in the country.”
2) “Full Metal Jacked” – removed by Vietnam in 2017
“In 2017, we complied with a written demand from the Vietnamese Authority of Broadcasting and Electronic Information (ABEI) to remove ‘Full Metal Jacket’ from the service in Vietnam only.”
3) “Night of the Living Dead” – removed by Germany in 2017
“In 2017, we complied with a written demand from the German Commission for Youth Protection (KJM) to remove ‘Night of the Living Dead’ from the service in Germany only. A version of the film is banned in the country.”
4, 5, & 6) “Cooking on High,” “The Legend of 420,” and “Disjointed” – removed by Singapore in 2018
“In 2018, we complied with a written demand from the Singapore Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) to remove ‘Cooking on High,’ ‘The Legend of 420,’ and ‘Disjointed’ from the service in Singapore only.”
7) “Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj” episode titled “Saudi Arabia” – removed by Saudi government request in 2019
“In 2019, we complied with a written demand from the Saudi Communication and Information Technology Commission to remove one episode—’Saudi Arabia’—from the series ‘Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj’ from the service in Saudi Arabia only.”
8) “The Last Temptation of Christ” – removed by Singapore in 2019
“In 2019, we received a written demand from the Singapore Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) to remove ‘The Last Temptation of Christ’ from the service in Singapore only. The film is banned in the country.”
9) “The Last Hangover” – removed by Singapore in 2020
“In 2020, we complied with a written demand from the Singapore Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) to remove ‘The Last Hangover’ from the service in Singapore only.”