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Netflix

A grand jury in Tyler County, Texas has indicted Netflix for "promotion of lewd visual material depicting a child" when it distributed the French film Cuties.

The controversial film sparked fierce backlash against streaming giant Netflix, with critics alleging it over-sexualizes children.

According to a press release, the District Attorney's Office claims that Netflix, by distributing Cuties, "knowingly promote[d] visual material that depicts the lewd exhibition of the genitals or pubic area of a clothed or partially clothed child, which appeals to the prurient interest in sex and has no serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value."

A spokesperson for Netflix told PEOPLE in a statement on Wednesday: "Cuties is a social commentary against the sexualization of young children. This charge is without merit and we stand by the film."

The film tells the story of an 11-year-old Senegalese girl in Paris who joins a "free-spirited dance clique" to escape family dysfunction.

Netflix previously apologized for a promo poster of the child stars posing in their dancing outfits. After the film premiered on Netflix on 9 September, the backlash continued as the hashtag "#CancelNetflix" was the top trending topic on Twitter in the U.S. the following day.

A petition on Change.org was also launched, calling on Netflix customers to cancel their subscriptions over the flick on the streaming service "that exploits children and creates a disturbing vibe".

"From cuties to Big Mouth to other movies mocking religions and exploiting children Netflix is no longer the family friendly streaming service I once believed it to be," reads a message on the campaign.