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Republican Sen. Josh Hawley is urging Netflix CEO Reed Hastings to take down the platform's controversial new film "Cuties," which critics say inappropriately sexualizes young girls.
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Hawley made his request in a letter to the head of the streaming giant after informally inviting the company to discuss the 2020 coming-of-age film — which depicts children dancing provocatively in scanty outfits — before Congress in a Thursday tweet.
Airing the film "raises major questions of child safety and exploitation, including the possibility of copycat behavior and exploitation of child actors," Hawley wrote.
The Missouri senator — a former state attorney general who won his seat by defeating incumbent Democrat Claire McCaskill in 2017 — has been a staunch critic of Big Tech. His letter demanded Netflix answer a number of questions about "Cuties" in addition to taking down the film.
Hawley cited 2019 reports that found YouTube served as a platform for predators to exploit young children in plain sight with "videos of children in partial states of exposure" that "were being 'inundated with comments' by pedophiles."
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Hawley and Sen. Edward Markey, D-Mass. introduced legislation in March 2019 to update the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act to prevent tech companies such as YouTube and Facebook from collecting the personal and geographical information of children under 13 years old.
"Exploiting children online is one of the worst dangers and worst threats that we face," Hawley said during a July 2019 Judiciary Committee hearing regarding child privacy online.
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During the hearing, Hawley brought up a June 2019 New York Times report that found YouTube's algorithm was suggesting videos of minor children to pedophiles, which he called "sickening" but added that what was "even more sickening was YouTube's refusal to do anything about it."
Netflix previously apologized for a "Cuties" movie poster showing the young lead actresses posing suggestively in dance outfits after facing intense backlash on social media.
The artwork "was not OK, nor was it representative of this French film which premiered at Sundance," Netflix said in a statement to FOX Business at the time. "We’ve now updated the pictures and description."
Netflix defended its decision to keep the film online, however, even after a clip from the film showing the lead actresses performing a dance routine went viral on social media this week, sparking outrage and calls to boycott the company.
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A Netflix spokeswoman said the film is 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."
Lawmakers including Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark.; Rep. Jim Banks, R-Ind.; and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, also called on the Justice Department to take action against Netflix for streaming the film.
"Cuties" director Maïmouna Doucouré told entertainment magazine Deadline that she has received death threats amid backlash over the film, which she described as her "personal story, as well as the story of many children who have to navigate between a liberal western culture and a conservative culture at home."
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