Early in 2019, Netflix came under fire for taking down an episode of Hasan Minhaj’s series Patriot Act in Saudi Arabia at the request of the Saudi government. Among those critiquing the streaming service was Minaj himself. But it turns out that this wasn’t an isolated incident; more governments than just Saudi Arabia’s have issued similar requests, and one episode of Patriot Act wasn’t the only thing that’s been removed over the years.
A new report from Julia Alexander at The Verge reveals the 9 titles Netflix has taken down in specific countries at the request of those countries’ governments. These include some high-profile films: Full Metal Jacket is no longer available in Vietnam, and Night of the Living Dead is unavailable in Germany.
Netflix did emphasize that they often seek to appeal such requests:
A Netflix representative told The Verge that in order for the company to comply, they must “be valid, written legal demands from government bodies.” The representative added that Netflix “pushes back on them when we get them.”
The largest number of requests came from the government of Singapore. Specifically, 5 of the 9 requests cited in the article; the other 4 requests came from 4 different countries. Among the objectionable titles were The Last Hangover and The Legend of 420.
Alexander notes that Netflix has come up with workarounds in some of these cases: “In the case of situations like Minhaj’s Patriot Act, Netflix decided to take the episode down from its service, but it uploaded the entire episode to YouTube for people living in Saudi Arabia to watch.”
The place where international media rights and local governing bodies converge can lead to some unexpected decisions. And Netflix’s announcement this week also begs the question of what films or television shows might come under scrutiny next.
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