Netflix has been indicted by a grand jury in the US for allegedly hyper-sexualising young girls and promoting “lewd visual material” in connection with the release of controversial French film Cuties.
The movie has repeatedly copped major backlash online, with Netflix forced to apologise for the poster of the young cast, before the hashtag #CancelNetflix started trending last month shortly after the film’s release.
The movie centres on an 11-year-old Senegalese girl living in Paris who joins a "free-spirited dance clique" to rebel against what she perceives as her family's oppressive mores.
Cuties premiered at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival, where writer-director Maimouna Doucoure won the world cinema dramatic directing award.
However, a Texas grand jury indicted Netflix under a law that forbids “the lewd exhibition of the genitals or pubic area of an unclothed, partially clothed, or clothed child."
The jury also decided the film had "no serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value."
A guilty verdict in Texas could lead to a prison term, although analysts said a fine and being forced to pull the film would be a more likely outcome.
In September, Texas Republican Senator Ted Cruz, who had not seen the film, called on the Justice Department to investigate whether it had broken any laws banning child pornography.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton then joined two other state attorney generals in a letter asking Netflix to withdraw the film from its hugely popular streaming platform.
Netflix has continued to defended the film, with a spokesperson telling AFP the charge is “without merit”.
And in a statement to Variety last month, a spokesperson for Netflix said: “Cuties is a social commentary against the sexualisation of young children.
“It's an award-winning film and 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.”
Additional reporting by AFP.