In Brief

Netflix Reveals Worldwide List of Government Takedown Requests

The ubiquitous streaming platform has revealed nine instances when nations asked the service to remove films or shows — from an episode of Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj in Saudi Arabia to Cannabis-related series in Singapore.

A still from Cooking on High Season 1. In 2018, the series was removed from Netflix in Singapore after demand from the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA). (courtesy of Netflix)

Because streaming rights vary across regions, Netflix’s catalogue may look different in other parts of the world. Beyond the platform’s algorithm, there are a handful of cases where governments have had a hand in curating their residents’ queue, expressly taking down certain titles due to concerns about criticism or cultural values.

On February 7, Netflix revealed the nine instances of when other countries have asked the service to remove films or shows in a new transparency report dating back to the company’s move to streaming in 2007. Variety reports that Netflix plans on releasing this information annually. The 2019 Environmental Social Governance report also includes information on the company’s environmental footprint, its workforce demographic statistics, and a brief recap of its shows that earned nominations at the 2019 NAACP Image Awards and GLAAD Media Awards.

The majority of takedown requests belonged to Singapore, which asked the streaming service to cut five titles from its local roster. This included the weed-themed options of Cooking on High, The Legend of 420 and Disjointed as well as religious films like Martin Scorsese’s The Last Temptation of Christ and the Brazilian satire, The Last Hangover. In 2017, Vietnam declined the appearance of Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket on its service, and Germany blocked George Romero’s 1968 zombie thriller Night of the Living Dead. New Zealand was the first country to request a takedown for The Bridge, a documentary about suicides off the Golden Gate Bridge

One of the more glaring instances of government overreach was Saudi Arabia’s request to takedown an episode of Patriot Act With Hasan Minhaj that criticized Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and his connection to the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi. At the time, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings defended the choice to censor the episode because his company was not in the business of journalism but entertainment

Here is the report’s list of the movies and TV shows Netflix said it has removed, as of February 2020:

  • 2020: The Last Hangover, a Netflix original special from Brazil’s Porta dos Fundos in which Jesus’s disciples wake up after a Last Supper raging party, removed in Singapore after a written demand from the Singapore Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA).
  • 2019: One episode of Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj (“Saudi Arabia”) removed in Saudi Arabia after a written demand from the Saudi Communication and Information Technology Commission.
  • 2019: The Last Temptation of Christ, which is banned in Singapore, removed in the country after written demand from the IMDA.
  • 2018: Cooking on High, The Legend of 420 and Disjointed removed in Singapore after demand from the IMDA.
  • 2017: Full Metal Jacket removed in Vietnam after a written demand from the Vietnamese Authority of Broadcasting and Electronic Information (ABEI).
  • 2017: Night of the Living Dead, which is banned in Germany, removed in the country after a written demand from the German Commission for Youth Protection (KJM).
  • 2015: The Bridge, a documentary film about suicide attempts on San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge that is classified as “objectionable” in New Zealand, removed from the country after a written demand from the New Zealand Film and Video Labeling Body.
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