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Netflix CEO Defends Censorship: ‘We’re Not Trying To Do Truth To Power’

The CEO of entertainment streaming corporation Netflix defended the company’s decision to censor “Patriot Act With  Hasan Minhaj ” in Sau...

The CEO of entertainment streaming corporation Netflix defended the company’s decision to censor “Patriot Act With Hasan Minhaj” in Saudi Arabia after the show was critical of the Middle Eastern nation’s crown prince, Mohammad Bin Salman, and his role in the disappearance and probable murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

The Wrap reports that Netflix CEO Reed Hastings was clear, in an interview at the New York Times’ DealBook conference, that Netflix had no desire to anger foreign nationals and that it would not court controversy if it meant forgoing profits and access to foreign audiences.

“Well, we’re not in the news business. We’re not trying to do ‘truth to power,’” Hastings said.
The Saudi-focused episode of “Patriot Act” disappeared from Netflix in Saudi Arabia last January after the Saudi royal family complained that the episode criticizing Mohammad Bin Salman violated the country’s “anti-cyber crime law.”
At the time, the Wrap reports, Netflix issued a statement claiming that “we strongly support artistic freedom worldwide.” It added that “we had received a valid legal request” to pull the episode, which required them “to comply with local law.”
Social media users noticed the disappearance and notified Minhaj, who addressed the issue in an additional episode of “Patriot Act” that aired in February.
“This isn’t about just censoring one episode of a TV show. It’s about the precedent,” Minhaj said in a taped segment. “Because as tech companies keep expanding, they’re going to keep running into more vague censorship laws — laws that can allow governments to pull any content at any time.”
Hastings seemed to confirm Minhaj’s suspicions of censorship in his interview, noting that Netflix has no desire to pick fights with prickly regimes over “newsy topics.”
“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,” Hastings said, adding that Saudi Arabia has approved the Netflix series, “Sex Education” despite the fact that Saudi officials consider the show’s content very controversial.
Netflix is, of course, hardly the only entertainment corporation that censors content for foreign audiences — especially in countries known to bankroll expensive film and television projects, like China.
Hollywood has had a very complicated relationship with China and the Chinese government. China is the single largest global entertainment market and only allows around 40 foreign movies to be shown in Chinese theaters each year. Competition for those slots is heavy, and entertainment companies, like Disney, are more than willing to tailor their offerings to please Chinese censors and government information ministers.
Activision Blizzard, the company behind World of Warcraft and other popular massive multiplayer online role playing games recently censored a pro gamer, confiscating his winnings and banning him from competition for a year, after that gamer noted support for the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong in a post-competition interview. The NBA, likewise, censored players and team administrators from speaking out on the protests in Hong Kong after China complained.
“Patriot Act” will return to Netflix for a new season next month, and it’s very likely Hasan Minhaj will make censorship a top topic.

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