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Netflix delivers a clear message to employees in new culture guidelines: If you don’t like our content, you can quit

May 16, 2022, 3:35 PM UTC

Netflix is giving their employees a new ultimatum: work on our content regardless of whether you agree with it or quit.

Months after Netflix employees and viewers attacked the company on the policing of its content, the streaming giant has updated its culture guidelines laying out new rules on “artistic expression.”

In the added section of its guidelines, the company begins by noting that “not everyone will like—or agree with—everything on our service,” adding to entertain different tastes and points of view, some TV shows or movies can be provocative.

“While every title is different, we approach them based on the same set of principles: we support the artistic expression of the creators we choose to work with; we program for a diversity of audiences and tastes; and we let viewers decide what’s appropriate for them, versus having Netflix censor specific artists or voices,” it said.

This means employees of Netflix may need to work on movies or TV shows which run counter to their values or content they even perceive as harmful.

The section ends by saying, “If you’d find it hard to support our content breadth, Netflix may not be the best place for you.”

Platform controversies

This is the first time the company updated its culture page since 2017, a Netflix spokesman told the Wall Street Journal, after it spent 18 months discussing cultural issues internally with Netflix employees.

The spokesman added the new language allows prospective employees to make better-informed decisions about whether Netflix is the right company to work for.

The update to the policy likely comes in response to the controversy surrounding The Closer, a stand-up special by Dave Chappelle released on Netflix on Oct. 5, which immediately drew ire after Chappelle mocked transgender people.

After the special was released, Netflix employees complained on social media, while LGBTQ advocacy group GLAAD and the National Black Justice Coalition called on Netflix to pull the show.

Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos responded to the uproar on Oct. 8, writing to employees at the company that he believed the content in The Closer won’t directly translate into real-world harm for trans people.

“Adults can watch violence, assault, and abuse – or enjoy shocking stand-up comedy – without it causing them to harm others,” Sarandos wrote, according to Variety.

While the controversy led to three employee suspensions, one firing, and a note of regret from the CEO, the company is certainly not alone in its struggle on how to police content.

In 2022 alone, leaders of Spotify, Walt Disney, and Twitter all had to defend decisions to their employees on how content will be managed on their platforms.

Daniel Ek had to defend Spotify’s ownership and streaming of the Joe Rogan Experience on its platform to its employees after Rogan hosted virologist Robert Malone, who denies the efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Disney CEO Bob Chapek faced major internal blowback over an insufficient response to the “Don’t Say Gay” bill—potential legislation that would prohibit classroom discussion of sexual orientation or gender identity in Florida’s primary schools.

Meanwhile, Twitter management has had to maneuver the prospect of Elon Musk’s free speech platform with its employees who may not be as keen.  

But on the topic of free speech, Musk has not stayed quiet about the new changes to Netflix.

Musk has previously said: “The woke mind virus is making Netflix unwatchable.”

Netflix is currently down 67.79% year to date, after announcing in late April it had shed almost 200,000 users in the first quarter of 2022.

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