Netflix’s removal of episode ‘an affront to freedom of expression’

The Electronic Frontier Foundation has called it “an affront to freedom of expression”, but the Saudi government sees it simply as illegal. An episode of Hasan Minhaj’s Netflix show Patriot Act has been removed for audiences within Saudi Arabia. The Verge (citing the FT):

The second episode of the Netflix comedy show criticized Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and the government’s reaction to the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The Saudi government reportedly told Netflix that the episode violated its cybercrime laws and requested its removal. The cited law effectively states that criticizing the government through any kind of digital medium is a criminal act.

This kind scenario might become more common for Netflix in 2019. It’s aggressively expanding globally. In its last quarter, six of the seven million new subscribers it added came from outside the US.

Difficult political territory. Can Netflix keep its obligation to follow local laws without provoking backlash in existing markets?

This, from Human Rights Watch’s executive director for the Middle East, gives a sense of what Netflix is grappling with:

(h/t Paul Blake)


Hassan Minhaj has responded to the row on Twitter:

A smart response that manages to avoid getting caught in the row about whether or not Netflix made the wrong decision.