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Russia investigates complaint over Netflix LGBT content

The company faces a fine and a temporary suspension of services if it's found to have violated the law.
BRAZIL - 2021/03/16: In this photo illustration the Netflix logo in App Store seen displayed on a smartphone screen. (Photo Illustration by Rafael Henrique/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
SOPA Images via Getty Images
Kris Holt
Kris Holt|@krisholt|November 25, 2021 10:50 PM

Russian officials are investigating a complaint against Netflix after the public commissioner for protecting families accused the company of violating a "gay propaganda" law, according to Reuters. The commissioner claimed that some Netflix content with LGBTQIA+ themes was rated suitable for those aged 16 and older. The country's laws do not allow the distribution of "propaganda on non-traditional sexual relations" among under 18s. 

If the Interior Ministry ultimately deems that Netflix has broken the law, it faces a fine of up to a million rubles ($13,390). More significantly, the service could be temporarily suspended.

A Netflix source told Vedomosti the company didn't find any LGBT content that was rated 16+ during a review earlier in November (a Netflix spokesperson confirmed to Engadget that titles were appropriately rated and that the ratings were accurate). The newspaper also reported this month that officials may ban streaming services from having shows and movies that depict "non-traditional sexual relationships and sexual deviations” in their libraries, including the likes of Fifty Shades of Gray and Billions.

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The European Court of Human Rights determined in 2017 that the "propaganda" law, which was enacted in 2013, discriminates against LGBTQIA+ people and violates European treaty rules and the right to freedom of expression. Activists and Western states have also criticized the regulation.

Meanwhile, Russia is taking aim at foreign tech companies at a broader level. This week, it said the likes of Apple, Facebook parent Meta, Google, TikTok, Telegram and Twitter would need to set up official presences in the country by the end of the year, if they haven't already done so.

Update 11/29 1:39PM ET: Clarified that the investigation is into the complaint, rather than Netflix.

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