Netflix CEO Reed Hastings doesn’t feel bad at all about Saudi censorship

“We don’t feel bad at all. We’re not trying to do ‘truth to power.’”

Reed Hastings, when asked about censoring content in Saudi Arabia

Neilson Barnard/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

Nope, not sorry — Reed Hastings, CEO of Netflix, feels no remorse for censoring an episode of Patriot Act With Hasan Minjaj.

“We’re not in the news business,” Hastings said at a New York Times DealBook conference on Wednesday. “We don’t feel bad at all. We’re not trying to do ‘truth to power.’”

The episode in question, which was removed from Saudi Arabia’s streaming options in January, criticizes Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salmen and Saudi investment in Silicon Valley. The episode was pulled after complaints from the Saudi Arabian government.

Good business, or greed? — In the interview, Hastings makes it abundantly clear that Netflix’s priority is and always will be the money. He speaks about Netflix being an enormous international business where only 5 percent of its revenue comes from the United States. He says that bowing to pressure from the government is actually a good thing, because in return the Saudi government allows them to stream “shows like Sex Education that show a very liberal lifestyle.”

Hastings wants it both ways — Hastings pushed back on the notion that Netflix is bowing to censorship by saying the company wouldn’t take down gay content if asked by the Saudis. The line between what he considers on the table for deletion and what shouldn’t be censored seems clear to Hastings, but he doesn’t seem to think it’s worth explaining in the interview — as if the distinction between the two should be self-evident.

“It’s tough. If you want to be an entertainment brand, and that’s really sharing lifestyles, then you have to draw hard lines,” he said confusingly.

For the record, the episode of Patriot Act is still available worldwide on YouTube and on Netflix outside of Saudi Arabia.