Netflix has caved to the demands of the Saudi Arabian government by removing an episode of “Patriot Act” with Hasan Minhaj from streaming within the country in response to the kingdom’s complaints that the episode showed it in a negative light.
According to Deadline, Hasan Minhaj heavily criticized the Saudi regime in the episode over the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. He also blasted Silicon Valley for “swimming in Saudi cash.”
“Now would be a good time to reassess our relationship with Saudi Arabia,” Hasan said in the pulled episode. “And I mean that as a Muslim, and as an American.”
Netflix removed the episode from streaming after the Saudi government cited a local statute it allegedly violated. Article 6 of that law says that “production, preparation, transmission, or storage of material impinging on public order, religious values, public morals, and privacy, through the information network or computers” is a crime.
Violators of that law could be punished by a maximum of five years in prison and be fined as much as $800,000. Since Netflix always complies with local laws in foreign countries, the streaming service ultimately gave the Saudi government what it wanted.
The episode can still be viewed on YouTube since the Saudi government never requested it be removed from that platform.
In a statement, Netflix defended their decision as simply complying with local law, noting that they support artistic freedom. “We strongly support artistic freedom worldwide and only removed this episode in Saudi Arabia after we had received a valid legal request — and to comply with local law,” the company said.
Hasan employed some biting humor against Netflix for complying with the Saudi government from his Twitter account.
“Clearly, the best way to stop people from watching something is to ban it, make it trend online, and then leave it up on YouTube,” said Hasan. “Let’s not forget that the world’s largest humanitarian crisis is happening in Yemen right now.”
Netflix’s decision to appease Saudi demands comes as supposed “free-market values” regarding oppressive foreign states have been placed under increased scrutiny in the age of President Trump. Just recently, the American Big Tech company Google announced it would be working with the Chinese government to help censor unfavorable content through the creation of Dragonfly, a prototype search engine designed to filter information according to China’s whims. As reported by The Daily Wire’s Ashe Schow, even Amnesty International has now launched a petition calling on Google to reverse course.
“If Google is willing to trade human rights for profit in China, could they do the same in other countries?” Amnesty International asked. “Drop the Dragonfly programme and publicly commit not to re-launch a search engine in China at the expense of human rights.”