Saudi Arabia Discovers The Streisand Effect; Gets Netflix To Take Down Hasan Minhaj's Show About MBS's Atrocities

from the bad-ideas-all-around dept

Back in October, comedian Hasan Minhaj’s show Patriot Act on Netflix did a pretty thorough critique of Saudi Arabia and its leader Mohammad bin Salman, often referred to as MBS. Go watch it here:

It covers a lot of ground, from the death of Jamal Khashoggi to MBS’s arresting of a bunch of his cousins to the catastrophic situation in Yemen… and the complicity of the US government and much of Silicon Valley who has taken Saudi money.

Not surprisingly, the Saudi government was not thrilled with this episode, or the fact that it was available via Netflix in the country. So, as first reported by the Financial Times (behind a paywall), and since reported in tons of other places, Netflix has agreed to pull that episode in Saudi Arabia in response to a “legal request.”

Apparently, the “legal request” referenced a cybercrime law that says “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 that can lead to imprisonment and fines. Cyber lese majeste, basically.

Not surprisingly, the move by Netflix is leading to tons of criticism directed at both Netflix and Saudi Arabia (but mostly at Netflix for caving).

Of course, this has also generated a lot more interest in that particular episode — which, again, Netflix has left up on YouTube (and which, it appears, is still available via YouTube in Saudi Arabia). It is the Streisand Effect in action — and, one might argue that Netflix knew that this was the likely outcome. As such, it not only gets to “avoid” whatever criminal punishment was being threatened by Saudi Arabia, but also gets more attention to this particular pointed criticism of MBS… and, as a side benefit, gets a lot more attention for its Patriot Act show.

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Comments on “Saudi Arabia Discovers The Streisand Effect; Gets Netflix To Take Down Hasan Minhaj's Show About MBS's Atrocities”

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Nick Knack says:

This is excuse for MM to use "Streisand Effect".

Anyone new here and not know why Masnick headlines "The Streisand Effect"? — If so, then you’ve got a hoot in store, though it’s not near so bad as years ago. — But there’s no one new here.

Now, let’s not leave out what’s being left out!

As always with Masnick, only Israel’s enemies come in for scorn, never Israel for worse. — This time he does take a shot at "Silicon Valley", though.

Here’s comparable news. — Oh, and by the way, NO I’m not "anti-Jew": I’m anti-war / anti-murder regardless what country does it. I’m the only one here who ever mentions the US’s war crimes of illegal and above all unnecessary invasions / occupations. Anyone NOT opposed to US / UK / Israel actions by now is supporting crimes.

Facebook’s Secret Censorship Manual Exposed as Platform Takes Down Video About Israel Terrorizing Palestinians

December 30, 2018 "Information Clearing House" – After the New York Times on Thursday published an expos‚ of Facebook’s global censorship rulebook, journalist Rania Khalek called out the social media giant for taking down a video in which she explains how, "on top of being occupied, colonized territory, Palestine is Israel’s personal laboratory for testing, refining, and showcasing methods and weapons of domination and control."

Google withdrew ads from populist British news website Politicalite last week, over an article about Marine Le Pen. Online ad platform Taboola followed, accusing the site of violating its Acceptable Use policy.

Google’s ad team informed Politicalite that their reposting of an article from partner website Voice of Europe about French right-winger Marine Le Pen violated its policies, although the tech giant would not explain precisely how.

Facebook’s New Propaganda Partners

Old but still most relevant:

Glenn Greenwald (Intercept, 12/30/17) reported that "Facebook has been on a censorship rampage against Palestinian activists who protest the decades-long, illegal Israeli occupation, all directed and determined by Israeli officials."

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“This is excuse for MM to use “Streisand Effect”.”

…and for a drooling idiot to complain about the fact. Don’t sell yourself short!

“although the tech giant would not explain precisely how”

I had to do a quick Google to see who these people are who are so hard done by. As I expected, the far right nationalist politician is being written about on sites that appear to be largely coloured by anti-semitism and islamophobic agitprop. It’s a real mystery what could have been there to cause any kind of complaint for people trying to sell products, truly it is.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: This is excuse for MM to use "Streisand Effect".

Maybe because there isn’t a lot of stories about Israel abusing technology. Both countries committed atrocities. But the US does as well. If comparing the Saudi Arabia’s atrocities with Israel’s though, I would say the former creates the majority of atrocities and the latter’s atrocities happen in response to a situation. Every time Israel has given them any leeway, they are hit with rockets. Gaza used to have open borders, it was only after a terrorist group took over and they started to attack with rockets did it get worse for Gaza. Personally, I don’t know how they are ever going to make peace. But whoever comes up with a solution should get a Nobel prize. I only blame the Palestinians for amplifying the problem since they voted for the terrorist group.

Anon Coward says:

Re: This is excuse for MM to use "Streisand Effect".

As always with Masnick, only Israel’s enemies come in for scorn, never Israel for worse.

Ummm, Saudi Arabia and Israel are allies not enemies. Oh sure there is a thin veil of enmity but everyone knows they work together. This isn’t conspiracy-level stuff I’m claiming here; you can just go to Wikipedia and read about it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Hate this garbage about private companies caving into requests.

Private companies are not countries, you didn’t elect Netflix into office.

They are there to make money. There is no such thing as ‘ethical capitalism’, if it looks like a company is being ethical it’s for a financial reason. Not a moral reason.

If your job is to sell subscriptions of shows to a country and a country says “take this one episode down or so help me!” you take the damned episode down or you lose your job when the stock holders scream at you for losing an entire country because you didn’t remove a single episode.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Except the free press is private organizations that survive on making money. So they are only obligated to make money.

Yes if they are seen as useless they can be marginalized and ignored. But many good publications have dried up and died because they couldn’t compete with the spectacle 24 hours day time news filled with crap and questions like “IS IT OK TO EAT PASTE AND FART?! MORE AT 11!”

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Bad press and loss of money

I think our corporations are not as governed by bad press and loss of money as this hypothesis implies.

A lot of products are purchased and preferred despite the bad press. Often people don’t have a choice. Often competing products are unfamiliar, more expensive, or not the same quality. Also competing companies may have other unethical policies.

Some unethical practices are difficult to understand so press about them doesn’t affect their reputation much.

Marketing a product so that it seems more ethical is often cheaper and just as effective as engaging in ethical practices.

Lobbying the government to allow for unethical production is one of the most profitable investments a company can make. If they already have the laws they want passed, the government can still be lobbied for unconditional subsidies.

nerdrage says:

Re: Re: Re:

Realistically, are people going to cancel Netflix because Netflix caved in to some Saudi thugs? I doubt it. The financial hint will be near zero.

This reminds me of all the right wing screaming when Netflix signed up the Obamas to do a show and put Susan Rice on the board. Should they be boycotted for that crime too? Some people think so. Probably more people will cancel over this than over Saudi Arabia, but it will be extremely minimal in both cases.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

“Should they be boycotted for that crime too?”

People can and should boycott over whatever ridiculous notion enters their heads if the mood takes them. That’s the free market at work, even if objective observers think their cause is stupid. They’re also free to ask other people to join them in their boycott.

You’re right that virtually nobody is realistically going to join either boycott, and certainly not enough people to make an actual difference – Netflix, for example, will have looked at their viewing figures and worked out that it’s worth more to them to have Saudi customers than have the show on their site. But, in a free country you should be free to choose where your money goes, even if your reason for doing so is silly.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: "No such thing as 'ethical capitalism'"

That makes for a strong indictment of basing our society on capitalism.

When it comes to goods and services on which the people depend, maybe there should be a state offering.

Or maybe, leaving all to the path of least resistance, when the nation serves the companies and no longer the public, the public should eat the companies.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: "No such thing as 'ethical capitalism'"

If you’re going to cancel Netflix over this, you should have cancelled a long time ago over something much bigger: Netflix can’t even get into China, because they are effectively 100% censored. Netflix sells shows here and there to state sponsored Chinese streaming platforms. Saudi Arabia is a piker when it comes to censorship. China is the real champ.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Cancelling netflix

“A boycott of one, or even a thousand has proven not to work.”

But, boycotts can work, you just need to organise enough people to join your cause. Even if you don’t make any immediate changes to their behaviour, isn’t it more important not to be giving companies you disagree with morally money every month?

The reason why ethical capitalism is relatively rare is because too many consumers like you will shrug their shoulders and pay them no matter what they do. If more people boycotted – even in small groups at a time – things will eventually change.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 "Boycotts work"

How many people is enough to make a boycott effective? Ten thousand? One hundred thousand? One million? It takes a massive mount of money and effort to organize those numbers, especially if the call to arms is something more obscure than a school massacre. I call bullshit.

Some of us — and in the current state of wealth disparity, I’d argue most of us — cannot afford to make our purchasing choices with a philosophy, even when we have a conscience and political awareness.

And as I noted above, sometimes all suppliers are unethical one way or another. Sometimes unethical behavior is too complex to understand. Marketing often works to obfuscate unethical behavior.

I find the notion of an acceptable cost / benefit analysis of a boycott dubious, especially for those of us who don’t have the time and energy it takes to organize one in the massive numbers.

And that it is so difficult to oppose common consumerism serves as an indictment of capitalism.

I’m, incidentally, not a Netflix customer. I just don’t watch that much television. Though I will watch Patriot Act S01E02.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 "Boycotts work"

“How many people is enough to make a boycott effective?”

Depends on the company and the issue. Boycotts have been effective in the past, some have not. But the answer is never “I won’t bother because I assume nobody else will” if you want action. It doesn’t matter if you’re the only person boycotting, even if you don’t affect immediate action, at least you’re putting your money where your mouth is.

“Some of us — and in the current state of wealth disparity, I’d argue most of us — cannot afford to make our purchasing choices with a philosophy”

We’re talking about an optional entertainment medium that costs most people less than $10/month and has numerous competing services. If that’s the hill you want to die on concerning major political issues, I’d point you to something more important.

“I’m, incidentally, not a Netflix customer.”

Then, your action either way is irrelevant, unless you do opt to become one in the future. However, if people do feel the way you do and opt to remain a customer despite having major issues with the way they operate, my message to them will be the same as to you.

Anonymous Coward says:

If they had refused to take down the show ,they might face legal action or the app might be banned
in Saudia arabia .
So the customers in saudia arabia would lose acess to 1000, of shows and films .
Everyday youtube takes down video,s from so called
content owners that is not owned by the person
who issue,s the strikes or dmca notice,s .

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