Netflix Reveals Titles Pulled From Service Over Government Demands

Patriot Act- Hasan Minhaj-Publicity 4-Still-H 2018
Cara Howe/Netflix

Of the nine takedown demands, five came from the government of Singapore, while Saudi Arabia demanded the removal of an episode of 'Patriot Act.'

Netflix released its first Environmental Social Governance report Friday, based on a framework from the non-profit Sustainability Accounting Standards Board.

While much of the report focuses on the company’s commitment to diversity and its environmental impact, the company also revealed every instance in which it has removed content from its streaming service due to government demands.

Netflix says in the report that it has removed a total of nine different TV shows and movies since the service launched. The company says that, going forward, it will reveal all government takedown demands annually.

Of the nine takedown demands, five came from the government of Singapore’s Singapore Infocomm Media Development Authority, including the movies The Last Hangover, The Last Temptation of Christ, the documentary The Legend of 420, and the TV series Cooking on High and Disjointed. The Singapore requests began in 2018, with The Last Hangover being removed just this year.

In Vietnam in 2017, Netflix removed the film Full Metal Jacket due to a demand from the Vietnamese Authority of Broadcasting and Electronic Information. Also in 2017, Netflix removed Night of the Living Dead in Germany, due to a request from the German Commission for Youth Protection.

In 2015, Netflix removed the film The Bridge from the service in New Zealand after a demand from the New Zealand Film and Video Labeling Body.

And then there was Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj. In 2019 Netflix removed one episode of the show in Saudi Arabia after receiving a written demand from the Saudi Communication and Information Technology Commission.

That move sparked outrage in the U.S. and elsewhere, as it was seen as being detrimental to free speech.

Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, asked about the move late last year, responded by saying "We’re not in the 'truth to power' business, we’re in the entertainment business … We can accomplish a lot more by being entertainment and influencing a global conversation about how people live than trying to be another news channel.”

Netflix content chief Ted Sarandos ultimately clarified those comments later in the month, saying, "I think all entertainment is truth to power, all creative expression is truth to power … I think what he was getting at is we are not really in the breaking news business … We are an entertainment company primarily."

Still, as the company looks outside the U.S. for growth, the possibility of clashes with local governments becomes an ever-more likely issue.