In Netflix’s Environmental Social Governance report, the company revealed that as of February 2020, a total of nine programs and/or show episodes were pulled from the service “due to government takedown demands.”
The first of the government requests came in 2015, when the New Zealand Film and Video Labeling Body submitted a written notice asking Netflix to pull the documentary film “The Bridge” from its New Zealand network. At the time, New Zealand officials had declared the film’s content to be “objectionable,” as it focused on the suicide attempts that occured at San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge.
Two years later, in 2017, the agency received two more requests: one from the Vietnamese Authority of Broadcasting and Electronic Information and another from the German Commision for Youth Protection. This time, Vietnamese officials wanted the 1987 film “Full Metal Jacket” pulled from the country’s streaming options, and German officials wanted George A. Romero’s horror classic “Night of the Living Dead” dropped, since a version of the film was banned in the country.
Singapore filed its first request in 2018 after three marijuana-focused series - “Cooking on High,” “The Legend of 420” and “Disjointed” - came onto the streaming platform. The Singapore Infocomm Media Development Authority again issued requests in 2019 and in 2020 to remove “The Last Temptation of Christ” and “The Last Hangover,” respectively.
The ninth request was filed by Saudi Arabia’s Communication and Information Technology Commission in 2019 when the overseeing body issued its own written demand for one episode of “Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj” to be pulled from Netflix’s network in the kingdom.
Of all the content removed from the streaming service, Netflix’s decision to pull the plug on Minhaj’s Saudi Arabia episode, which focused on the country’s involvement in Yemen, ties with the US and crackdown on women’s rights, among other Saudi-centered topics, caused the largest of uproars.
In line with Singapore’s explanation that the highlighted video content violated local laws, Saudi officials later indicated that the request was issued because the particular episode reportedly violated the kingdom’s anti-cybercrime law.
According to Axios, Netflix initially works with local regulators to come to an agreement to keep content available, and that in the event the involved parties are unable to do so, the content gets pulled. However, the specified footage isn’t officially removed until Netflix receives a written government request.
Not listed among Netflix’s most recent purges is “The First Temptation of Christ,” a 2019 Brazilian comedy by the group Porta dos Fundos that depicts Jesus in a same-gender relationship. At the time of its release, the film gained a slew of negative attention, with more than 1.2 million people signing a petition calling for its removal. After its December 2019 release, a Brazilian judge ordered Netflix to cut the film from the Brazilian streaming network.
Only time will tell if “The First Temptation of Christ” will wind up on the axed list. Netflix has indicated that it will continue to publish its transparency report each year.