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Netflix: Manipulated algorithms should hide controversial film “Cuties”

Netflix tweaked its search and suggestion algorithms to defuse the controversy surrounding the film “Cuties”. According to a report in tech magazine The Verge, the controversial feature film was manually removed from lists of upcoming, similar, and highly sought-after films.

The Verge refers in his report to internal documents of the video streaming service. Accordingly, the suggestions that came up when searching for the film name were also adjusted manually. Netflix wanted to ensure that no films tagged as “sexual” or intended for children appeared in search suggestions for “cuties”.

“Cuties”, which is called “Mignonnes” in the French original and in the German-speaking countries, is a film by the filmmaker Maïmouna Doucouré. According to Doucouré, it is supposed to take a critical look at the oversexualization of children through social media and has received awards at the Sundance Film Festival, among others. When the Netflix release at the end of 2020, it was mainly the marketing material created by the streaming service, which showed the child actresses in provocative poses, that caused trouble.

Because of these advertising posters, a shitstorm broke out over the supposedly child pornographic film, which also drew into US politics via social media. One Article from Variety According to the announcement, subscription cancellations on Netflix rose eightfold as a result of the publication.

Netflix CEO Ted Sarandos apologized to Doucouré, The Verge continues. The filmmaker did not know anything about the advertising poster that Netflix had specially made for the release of the film. Netflix also publicly apologized: The artwork was not representative of the film, the company wrote on Twitter.

The streaming service “Cuties” did not want to completely remove it – that could have been reactionary, the technology magazine quotes from internal Netflix documents. Interventions in the algorithm should instead ensure that the film is placed less prominently. That should lessen awareness and limit reporting, writes The Verge.

Netflix is ​​also said to have manually defused certain search terms that can usually arise organically. The Verge cites the search term “pedo” as an example: If many users search for this term and finally watch “Cuties”, the film could be suggested directly for additional searches with “pedo”. Netflix prevented that through manual intervention.

“Our referrals help members find great titles among Netflix’s huge selection,” a company spokesperson told The Verge. “Not every title is advertised the same way”.


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