Staff Reporters
Feb 10, 2020

Singapore is Netflix's most censored market

Singapore accounts for the highest proportion of government-mandated content removals since Netflix launched. See which films and shows have been pulled.

Singapore is Netflix's most censored market

Netflix has only removed nine titles due to government demands since it launched 23 years ago—more than half of which have occured in Singapore. 

The streaming service has disclosed the takedown demands in a new report, called Environmental Social Governance, which provides information on the platform's environmental and social impact, and its governance structures. It plans to release a similar report annually to provide greater transparency about its operations to its investors and "other third parties". 

The report, first highlighted by Axios, shows that the streaming service has removed nine film and TV titles since launch in 1997 (although it only transitioned from a DVD rental-by-mail company to a streaming service in 2010).

Of those, more than half (5) were in Singapore, including one from this year. The remaining removals have occured in Germany, New Zealand, Saudi Arabia and Vietnam. The full list is as follows:

  • In 2015, Netflix complied with the New Zealand Film and Video Labeling Body to remove The Bridge from the service in New Zealand only. 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 from the service in Vietnam only.
  • In 2017, Netflix complied with the German Commission for Youth Protection (KJM) to remove Night of the Living Dead from the service in Germany only. A version of the film is 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 from the service in Saudi Arabia only.
  • In 2019, Netflix complied with the Singapore Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) to remove The Last Temptation of Christ from the service in Singapore only. The film is banned in the country. 
  • In 2020, Netflix complied with the Singapore Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) to remove The Last Hangover from the service in Singapore only.

Singapore has severe penalties for drug possession and trafficking, including caning and capital punishment. The country also doesn't recognise same-sex relationships, while same-sex sexual activity, and the adoption of children by same-sex couples, is illegal.

Netflix did not specify how many government requests it received in total. A Netflix representative told The Verge that it “pushes back on them when we get them", pointing to a recent example in Brazil, “where a lower court ruled we should take down The First Temptation of Christ” (a comedy that depicts Jesus in a gay relationship), to which the company appealed to the Supreme Court and won.

Elsewhere in the report, Netflix said it had invested efforts to build up a workforce and content base that reflected the diversity of its global audience.

This includes investing in its international portfolio of content, and providing content that is dubbed and subtitled in more than 40 languages. It said that the volume of programming its subscribers watched that did not originate from their home country or the US climbed by 10% over the past year. Meanwhile, foreign language content in its domestic US market grew 23% year-on-year. 

Netflix also revealed the diversity of its workforce, believing that "to effectively serve our members, who come from all around the world, we need a diverse workforce where employees—whatever their background—can do the best work of their careers," it said in the report.

It claims that 49% of its global workforce is female, with the same proportion in management positions. However, in the US, only 7% of its workforce are black, and 7% hispanic. In management, only 7% are black, and 5% hispanic. Meanwhile, Asians represented 24% of the US workforce, and 15% of the US management.

"We’ve made progress over the last few years to increase the diversity of our workforce," the company said. "But we still have a lot more work to do. So in 2018, we hired Vernā Myers to lead inclusion strategy at Netflix. She is building a team to develop strategies to integrate cultural diversity, inclusion and equity into all aspects of Netflix’s operations worldwide."

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