An elected commissioner in Russia has asked the government to investigate Netflix and evaluate whether the streaming giant is violating the country’s law by promoting so-called “gay propaganda.”
The Interior Ministry of Russia is considering the complaint and undertaking an investigation with results to come within 30 days, sources have told reporters. If they find that Netflix is violating the law, they could fine the giant or even suspend their service in the country altogether.
Olga Baranets is the equivalent of “public commissioner for the protection of the family” as elected by the Council of Public Organizations of Saint Petersburg, a largely conservative-led group of organizations in Russia. She has flagged Netflix as supposedly in violation of a 2013 law that bans “propaganda on non-traditional sexual relations” being promoted to anyone under the age of 18.
It’s not clear if any specific show or promotion sparked Baranets’ complaints, but she claims that Netflix has labelled shows with what Russian censors equate to “deviant” content were given a 16+ rating. Any shows with “deviant” content have to receive an 18+ rating.
Baranets says that there is a “colorful collection of films and TV series tells about the lives of gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people” that is currently receiving a 16+ rating.
Netflix is not the first entity that Baranets has flagged for investigation. Just this week, she also called for a Moscow school to receive administrative charges under the same law because a teacher allegedly instructed fifth grade students to draw rainbows as symbols of Pride.
Several parents of students, human rights advocates and even the school’s director have told publications that there was no LGBTQ-related instruction or angle to the lesson, but the school and teacher remain under investigation. Still, the Moscow police and Moscow Education Department are reportedly investigating.
Netflix has not publicly commented, but a source at the company told a Russian language newspaper that an internal review did not find any such instance in which they were violating the law. If Interior Ministry officials find otherwise, the entire company could face a misdemeanor charge under the law. That could mean the company faces a fine of 1 million rubles, or about $13,400, or a suspension from availability for up to 90 days.
Earlier this month, the Russian music channel Muz-TV received that exact judgement after airing gender-flipping performances and same-sex content in an award show, according to the Moscow Times.
While homosexuality is legal in Russia, the same law from 2013 has been used to quash Pride events, LGBTQ activists, and even LGBTQ teens speaking on social media under President Vladimir Putin. The European Court of Human Rights ruled in 2017 that the gay propaganda law breached their treaty rules, violated Europeans’ right to freedom of expression, and served as a form of discrimination, but Russia has not removed it.
A national referendum passed by citizens in the country last year made marriage legally defined as only being between a man and a woman.
Earlier this year, a Russian prosecutor also called for banning Dolce & Gabbana on Instagram in the country because they have shared images of same-sex couples kissing.