Netflix CEO defends censoring anti-government video in Saudi Arabia

Reed Hastings looking at the camera

"We're not trying to do 'truth to power, '" Hastings said at The New York Times DealBook Conference.

When Sorkin pushed Hastings on the fact that Netflix is now complicit in censoring critics in the Middle East, Hastings again trotted out the argument that Netflix is merely an entertainment channel rather than a new channel.

Sorkin, seemingly unsatisfied with what Hastings' rationale as to why Netflix need not stand up for freedom of speech, reminded the silicon valley leader that his company has engaged in hot-button political issues at home.

Karen Attiah, who worked with Khashoggi at The Washington Post, wrote that Minhaj "has been a strong, honest and [funny] voice challenging Saudi Arabia [and] Mohammed bin Salman" in the wake of her colleague's murder. Notably, Netflix said it would "re-think" filming in Georgia past year if the state passed an anti-abortion bill. "We would not comply with that", Hastings responded to the Times" reporter's pointed question. "And if you want to be an entertainment brand and it's really about sharing lifestyles, then you do have to draw hard lines, but they're around things that are around lifestyle, not, you know, the current news".


"If they came to us and said, "You can't have gay content, ' we wouldn't do that". "It's tough. If you want to be a news brand, then you have a different set of things that you do".

Minhaj, an alum of The Daily Show, criticized Saudi crown prince Mohammad Bin Salman and his alleged involvement in the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in an Patriot Act episode that debuted previous year. The CIA reportedly concluded previous year that the crown prince ordered the assassination of Khashoggi, but he's denied it.

He also said it was unlikely Netflix would threaten the business of movie theaters, and defended a recent experiment under which users can watch videos sped up 50%. Minhaj also talked about Saudi Arabia's connection to the crisis in Yemen. Netflix complied by removing the episode.

Netflix removed the video at the request of the Saudi government, which said it violated a Saudi law prohibiting distribution of content that impinges on public order, religious values, or public morals. And Hastings went on to argue that it can actually do good in the world by playing ball with the Saudi government's censors.

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