Netflix revealed that it gave in to the Singapore government's demands at least five times in the last three years from 2018 to 2020.
In total, Netflix complied with nine takedowns over the course of its 25-year existence.
This means Netflix removed nine titles from its service around the world in compliance with government demands.
Viewed in this regard, the Singapore government's five requests resulted in more than half of all successful takedowns.
What did the Singapore government want removed?
Netflix wrote that even though its catalogue varies from country to country due to a number of reasons, such as 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”.
The takedowns relate to certain parts of its film and television catalogue.
A Netflix representative told The Verge that in order for the company to comply, they must “be valid, written legal demands from government bodies”.
Netflix listed the nine takedowns it’s received, between 2015 and February 2020 (Singapore takedowns in bold):
• 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.
The titles the Singapore government wanted removed pertains to drugs and religion.
The titles can be described as taking a subversive view of these matters.
Beginning in 2021, Netflix will list these takedowns annually.
Tough regulatory environment to navigate
Netflix noted in its report that it will work to keep titles on its streaming service in every country the company operates in.
But the company is aware that certain takedown demands must be met in order to keep working within those countries.
To negotiate these regulatory terrain gingerly, Netflix has come up with compromise solutions.
In the case of Minhaj’s Patriot Act, Netflix decided to take the episode down from its service, but uploaded the entire episode to YouTube for people living in Saudi Arabia to watch.