Since Netflix was founded almost 25 years ago, the company has removed nine titles from its service around the world in compliance with government demands, including Night of the Living Dead in Germany and Full Metal Jacket in Vietnam.
Netflix laid out the nine takedowns it’s received from various companies relating to certain parts of its film and television catalog in a new environmental social governance report, first spotted by Axios. Netflix’s report noted that while its catalog varies from country to country for a number of reasons, including licensing rights, “in some cases we’ve also been forced to remove specific titles or episodes of titles in specific countries due to government takedown demands.”
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 representative pointed to a recent example in Brazil, “where a lower court ruled we should take down The First Temptation of Christ.” The company appealed to the Supreme Court and won.
Netflix listed the nine takedowns it’s received, between 2015 and February 2020. Beginning in 2021, Netflix will list these takedowns annually. The takedowns Netflix listed include:
- In 2015, Netflix complied with the New Zealand Film and Video Labeling Body to remove The Bridge. The film is classified as “objectionable” in the country.
- In 2017, Netflix complied with Vietnamese Authority of Broadcasting and Electronic Information (ABEI) to remove Full Metal Jacket.
- In 2017, Netflix complied with the German Commission for Youth Protection (KJM) to remove Night of the Living Dead. A version of the film is also banned in the country.
- In 2018, Netflix complied with the Singapore Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) to remove Cooking on High, The Legend of 420, and Disjointed from the service in Singapore only.
- In 2019, Netflix complied with the Saudi Communication and Information Technology Commission to remove one episode — “Saudi Arabia” — from Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj.
- In 2019, Netflix complied with the Singapore Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) to remove The Last Temptation of Christ.
- In 2020, Netflix complied with the Singapore Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) to remove The Last Hangover.
Some of the takedowns make immediate sense upon reading. In 2017, Netflix removed Full Metal Jacket from its Vietnamese service to comply with a demand from the Vietnamese Authority of Broadcasting and Electronic Information. The second half of the film takes place in Vietnam, but the entire movie is regarded as Stanley Kubrick’s take on the Vietnam War. It could be considered a sensitive subject in Vietnam.
Other takedown demands that Netflix complied with are less understandable. For example, in 2017, Netflix complied with a demand from the German Commission for Youth Protection to remove Night of the Living Dead. (Netflix’s report does note that a version of Night of the Living Dead is banned in Germany altogether.) What’s less clear is why this movie was removed, while other, more graphic horror movies remain.
The most famous incident happened at the beginning of 2019 when Netflix received blowback for taking down an episode of Hasan Minhaj’s Patriot Act. The episode criticized Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and the government’s reaction to the high-profile death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Netflix CEO Reed Hastings was asked about the episode removal late last year.
“We’re not in the truth to power business, we’re in the entertainment business,” Hastings told journalist Andrew Ross Sorkin.
Hasting’s comments were met with criticism, especially considering that Netflix produces a number of original series and films that hold truth to power. Ava DuVernay’s When They See Us examined the Central Park Five case that saw five young black men wrongfully convicted for a crime. The docuseries resulted in a defamation lawsuit against DuVernay and Netflix that they are currently fighting. The Laundromat, a movie based on the Panama Papers, examined a major data breach that demonstrated how wealthy and powerful people hid their money. Like When They See Us, the movie led to a lawsuit from two lawyers who tried to stop The Laundromat from streaming. It didn’t work.
Netflix notes in its report that it will work to keep titles on its streaming service in every country the company operates in. Part of Netflix’s appeal to creatives is being able to give their work a global audience. Still, the company realizes that in order to keep working within those countries, certain takedown demands must be met. 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.
Update (February 7th, 2:45pm ET): The story has been updated to include additional information from Netflix about how the takedown demands work.