New reports have claimed that Netflix manipulated its search and recommendations algorithms to mitigate the public backlash against its release of Cuties.
The French coming-of-age film won a directing award at Sundance, but has been the subject of controversy since its release in September 2020. Over hundreds of thousands of people signed a petition demanding that the film be removed, claiming that Cuties sexualised “an 11-year-old for the viewing pleasure of paedophiles.”
At the time, Netflix defended Cuties, calling it in a statement “a social commentary against the sexualization of young children. It’s an award winning film and a powerful story about the pressure young girls face on social media and from society more generally growing up – and we’d encourage anyone who cares about these important issues to watch the movie.”
However, internal documents obtained and reviewed by The Verge now suggest that Netflix removed the film from its major categories on its platform like “coming soon” and “popular to Netflix”.
It has also been suggested that the streaming platform also adjusted its search algorithm so that searches for the term “cuties” would exclude titles deemed “sexual/steamy” as well as titles intended for children.
In response to a request for comment from The Verge, a Netflix spokesperson said: “Our recommendations help members find great titles to watch amidst all the choices on Netflix. Not every title gets promoted in the same way, just as every member’s homepage is different.”
The reports have arrived after Netflix came under fire for defending Dave Chappelle, who labelled himself a “TERF” in his recent special on the platform.