Saudi Arabia allowed sexually explicit Netflix shows like 'Sex Education' in exchange for removing one satire episode that criticized the kingdom, CEO Reed Hastings said

  • Saudi Arabia let Netflix show explicit content in exchange for the removal of a satirical show that criticized the Crown Prince, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings said.
  • Netflix confirmed on January 1, 2019, that an episode of "Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj" was removed after a legal complaint from Saudi Arabia.
  • In the show Minhaj condemned Saudi Arabia for covering up the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, and mocked Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
  • Hastings told CNN on September 10 that the deal to delete Minhaj's show meant Saudis could watch shows like "Orange is the New Black" and "Sex Education."
  • Hastings told CNN that the deal was "a troubling compromise" but that he thought it was "a good move."
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Saudi Arabia agreed to host explicit Netflix shows in exchange for the removal of a satirical episode that criticized the kingdom, the streaming giant's CEO said.

On January 1, 2019, Netflix confirmed it removed for its Saudi viewers an episode of "Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj" in which Minhaj accused Saudi Arabia of covering up the killing of Jamal Khashoggi and slammed the continued bombing of Yemen.

"It blows my mind that it took the killing of a Washington Post journalist for ever one to go: 'Oh, I guess [Crown Prince Mohammed] is not a reformer," he said in the episode.

"Meanwhile, every Muslim person you know was like: 'Yeah, no s—.'"

At the time, Netflix said it deleted the show following a "valid legal request" from the kingdom which claimed the episode violated its cybercrime laws.

But on September 10, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings said the show was removed in exchange for some of its other, more explicit content could be made available to Saudi customers.

"It's a troubling compromise, not something that we approach easily or lightly, but on balance we think it's a good move," Hastings told CNN.

Hastings said Saudi Arabia agreed to host shows like "Orange is the New Black," Queer Eye," and "Sex Education" in exchange. 

And while Minhaj's episode was removed from Netflix in Saudi Arabia, it remained on the streaming company's YouTube page.

Despite huge social reforms over the last two years — like letting women drive and changing a law that let men control women's movements via app — Saudi Arabia remains an extremely conservative country.

Homosexuality is punishable with the death penalty in the kingdom, and women there do not enjoy anywhere near the same rights as men.

Minhaj mocked Netflix's decision to remove his episode at the time, tweeting: "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."

Netflix this week came under fire around the world, for airing "Cuties," a show about a young migrant in France that has been accused of promoting and glamorizing pedophilia.

Disclosure: Mathias Döpfner, CEO of Business Insider’s parent company, Axel Springer, is a Netflix board member.

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