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Netflix appeals to content that runs counter to employees’ personal values

diving letter:

  • Netflix released this month an update to its workplace culture document which addressed in part the role of content on its video streaming service that could be viewed as “provocative”.
  • “Not everyone is going to like — or agree with — everything about our service,” the company said. “As employees, we support the principle that Netflix offers a variety of stories, even if we find some titles against our own personal values. Depending on your role, you may have to work on titles that you deem harmful. If you’re having a hard time supporting our breadth of content, Netflix may not be the best place for you.”
  • The update comes less than a year after a subset of Netflix employees left the company after the release of Dave Chappelle’s comedy special The Closer.

Dive insight:

The past 12 months have been a tumultuous one for Netflix, with the company facing a crisis declining subscriber numbers and lower sales growth. As a result, Netflix has reportedly fired it about 150 US employees.

Media scrutinized Netflix last fall after the company released comedian Dave Chappelle’s controversial special, The Closer. The special contains comments considered by many to be harmful to members of the transgender community and drew criticism from some Netflix employees.

in a (n internal letter to employees received from The Verge, CEO Ted Sarandos defended the company’s decision to continue airing the special.

“Some of you have also asked where we draw the line on hate,” Sarandos wrote. “We don’t allow titles on Netflix intended to incite hatred or violence, and we don’t think so The nearer crosses this line. I do acknowledge, however, that it’s difficult to distinguish between commentary and harm, especially in stand-up comedy that’s there to push boundaries. Some people find the art of stand-up mean, but our members enjoy it and it’s an important part of our content offering.”

Sarandos seemed to regret his tone. A little over a week later, the day before company employees left, he said in an interview with Variety that he “should have led with more humanity” in responding to workers’ complaints.

Other parts of the updated culture document address how employees can voice disagreements about issues at the company, informing workers that “it is their responsibility to explain this, ideally in person and in writing.” The company said it was leaving insists that decision-makers consider different opinions, but when a decision is made, “we expect everyone – including those who disagreed – to get involved and help ensure that the outcome is as successful as possible.”

Workers’ dissent over company policy has spread to a number of large organizations both inside and outside the technology sector. Recently, Employees of The Walt Disney Co. dropped out because he says the company failed to take action in response to the passage of Florida’s Parental Rights in Education bill. Last year employee of the technology company Basecamp protested the company’s decision limit the political discussion to an internal platform.

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