Netflix CEO said the company believes content 'doesn't directly translate to real-world harm' in defense of Dave Chappelle special, report says

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Netflix CEO said the company believes content 'doesn't directly translate to real-world harm' in defense of Dave Chappelle special, report says
Dave Chappelle's latest special, "The Closer," has been defended by Netflix head Ted Sarandos. David Livingston/Getty Images
  • In an email, Netflix CEO Ted Sarandos said on-screen content doesn't translate to real-world harm.
  • Sarandos cited a decline in violent crime in recent decades despite an increase in violent content.

Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos said this week the company believes on-screen content "doesn't directly translate to real-world harm," in another defense of Dave Chappelle's new comedy special, Variety reported.

The streaming giant has come under fire from some of its employees for hosting the special, "The Closer," which activists say features transphobic comments. In the special, Chappelle says "gender is a fact" and defends "Harry Potter" author JK Rowling, who has also been criticized for transphobic comments. Chappelle also said he identifies with TERFs, or trans-exclusionary radical feminists.

Sarandos initially defended the special in an email sent to company leadership on Friday, according to The Verge. He doubled down on the remarks in a company-wide email sent on Monday and obtained by Variety after Netflix employees protested the special and the decision to keep it on the platform.

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"With 'The Closer,' we understand that the concern is not about offensive-to-some content but titles which could increase real-world harm (such as further marginalizing already marginalized groups, hate, violence, etc.)," Sarandos wrote. "While some employees disagree, we have a strong belief that content on screen doesn't directly translate to real-world harm."

He continued: "The strongest evidence to support this is that violence on screens has grown hugely over the last thirty years, especially with first-party shooter games, and yet violent crime has fallen significantly in many countries. Adults can watch violence, assault, and abuse - or enjoy shocking stand-up comedy - without it causing them to harm others."

In response to the comments, GLAAD released a statement pushing back against Sarandos's claims about the impact of media: "GLAAD was founded 36 years ago because media representation has consequences for LGBTQ people. Film & TV have been filled with stereotypes and misinformation about us, leading to real-world harm, especially for trans people & LGBTQ people of color."

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One transgender Netflix employee who spoke out against the special in a viral Twitter thread last week also argued that transphobic content translates to physical harm, listing off transgender people who have been killed.

The employee, Terra Field, was suspended by the company but was later reinstated.

Chappelle's "The Closer" was the third most-watched piece of content on Netflix in the US on Wednesday.

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