Feb 7, 2020 - Economy & Business

Exclusive: Netflix reveals its 9 government takedown requests

Photo: Lionel Bonaventure/AFP/Getty Images

Netflix has taken down just nine pieces of content around the world in response to written government demands since it was founded 23 years ago, the company revealed for the first time.

Why it matters: As Netflix aims to grow its business abroad, it wants to be transparent about the way it handles censorship efforts in markets it looks to invest in.

Details: In its first-ever report on what it calls Environmental Social Governance, Netflix says it has already received one takedown request this year from the government of Singapore to remove "The Last Hangover," a Brazilian comedy.

  • To date, Netflix has received three written demands from the government of Singapore covering five pieces of content, and one each from New Zealand, Vietnam, Germany, and Saudi Arabia. All have been since 2015.
  • Netflix says it will only take down content if it receives a written request from the government seeking the censorship.
  • The company says it will work to keep content available on its service and if it can't come to an agreement with the government in the country that it operates, then it will take down content after receiving a written government request. It considers written demands legal demands, and it aims to comply with local laws.
  • Sometimes content takedown demands are a reflection of a society's values or laws. For example, in 2018 Singapore asked Netflix to remove a California-based cannabis cooking sitcom because cannabis is illegal in Singapore.
  • Other notable takedowns include the 2019 removal of comedian Hasan Minhaj “Patriot Act" standup special, in response to a written request in 2019 from the Saudi government.

Be smart: Netflix says that while it aims to keep as much content up as possible, it ultimately wants to make sure that it complies with the laws of the territories it operates in.

  • Notably, Netflix doesn't operate in China. This is a distinct difference from Disney, which relies on the Chinese film market for most of its international box office revenue.

The big picture: Most content companies don't disclose government takedown demands. However, tech platforms that host billions of pieces of user-generated content usually do. Netflix is an entertainment and tech company, and spends most of its money acquiring and producing original content.

  • To that end, Netflix recently joined the Motion Picture Association of America, a trade group that represents traditional movie studios, and left the Internet Association, which represents tech companies like Google and Facebook.

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