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Netflix reportedly adjusted algorithm to suppress controversial movie and 'minimize press coverage'

Facing backlash over its release of the film Cuties last year, Netflix took steps to adjust its search algorithm, a new report has revealed

The streamer in 2020 faced criticism over the French movie Cuties, which follows an 11-year-old girl who joins a dance crew. The film was accused of sexualizing young girls after Netflix released a poster showing its main characters posing provocatively, which critics said didn't accurately convey the film's intent as a commentary on such hypersexualization. Amid this controversy, The Verge reports Netflix "scrambled to minimize public backlash by suppressing the film in search results prior to its release." The streamer reportedly removed Cuties from the "coming soon," "more like this," "coming later," "extras," and "popular searches" categories, and it also reportedly excluded the film from searches of the word "cute." Additionally, The Verge reports Netflix adjusted searches for the movie to ensure "steamy / sexual titles" and kids' movies would not appear. 

Documents show Netflix's goal was to "minimize press coverage" related to the controversial poster while "avoid looking like we have removed the film page from service, are moving release date and/or not launch the film," according to the report. This comes as Netflix continues to face criticism over the release of the Dave Chappelle special The Closer, in which the comedian makes numerous controversial jokes about LGBTQ people. Netflix reportedly hasn't taken similar steps to adjust its search results for The Closer, and The Verge reports the Cuties controversy "highlights why some employees have been disappointed" by Netflix's response to the Chappelle backlash, as "some at the company felt bad faith attacks were taken more seriously than criticism from Netflix's own workers." The Closer recently sparked an employee walkout at Netflix. 

Netflix apologized last year for its "inappropriate artwork" for Cuties, noting it was not "representative" of the film.