Is It Netflix’s Turn in the Barrel?

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The Netflix logo is seen on their office in Hollywood, Los Angeles, California, U.S. July 16, 2018. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson - RC14D89C41A0

For a tech giant that delivers TV over the internet, the company hasn’t faced much criticism, but that grace period could be ending.

Two recent stories suggest that Netflix may not stay outside the critic zone forever, however. Yesterday, the company admitted that it had pulled an episode of Patriot Act With Hasan Minhaj from its service in Saudi Arabia. In the episode, Minhaj harshly criticizes the Saudi government’s shifting explanations of the murder of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi. He also suggests that the United States is complicit in the ongoing tragedy in Yemen through its support for Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Saudi authorities apparently filed the takedown with reference to the country’s anti-cybercrime laws. Netflix, for its part, said, “We strongly support artistic freedom and removed this episode only in Saudi Arabia after we had received a valid legal request—and to comply with local law.”

The Netflix response has a we-can-have-it-both-ways scent that feels distinctly pre-2016 for other tech companies. Even as Netflix bowed to the government pressure, it asks to be seen as a hero of the arts.

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