Amazon and MGM’s ‘Ring Nation’ Surveillance Camera Reality Show Boycotted by Activists

Racial justice activists argue that the upcoming Mark Burnett-produced series perpetuates harmful stereotypes.
BEVERLY HILLS, CALIFORNIA - MARCH 27: Wanda Sykes attends the 2022 Vanity Fair Oscar Party hosted by Radhika Jones at Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts on March 27, 2022 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/WireImage)
Wanda Sykes

Advocacy groups are calling on MGM Television to cancel upcoming series “Ring Nation.”

Hosted by Wanda Sykes, the unscripted surveillance camera series uses Amazon’s Ring home security cameras for a clip series, produced by “Live PD” producers Big Fish Entertainment and Ring. The series premieres September 26 and will feature viral videos shared by people from their video doorbells and smart home cameras. Promoted clips include neighbors helping neighbors, marriage proposals, military reunions, and animal moments.

Ring founder and inventor Jamie Siminoff previously appeared on “Shark Tank” as a contestant and later a Guest Shark.

However, now more than 40 racial justice, privacy rights, and worker advocacy organizations are calling on Poznick and MGM Television Chairman Mark Burnett to cancel the series. Per the official letter, the “Cancel Ring Nation” campaign “sounds the alarm about the dangerous precedent MGM is setting in normalizing and promoting Amazon’s harmful network of surveillance cameras.”

Non-profit Fight for the Future, Media Justice, Alternate ROOTS, Athena, Center for Race and Digital Justice, For Us Not Amazon, The Surveillance, Tech & Immigration Policing Project at the Immigrant Defense Project, and WITNESS are among the signees for the open letter.

“The Ring surveillance network used to garner clips for Ring Nation does so at the expense of Black and brown people. Ring has a long history of using racially coded dog whistles and weaponizing race to promote their products,” the letter states. “And the accompanying Neighbors app gamifies the profiling and criminalization of Black and brown individuals. Footage from Ring cameras was used to track and monitor protesters who took to the streets, exercising their First Amendment rights, in the wake of George Floyd’s murder. These are not isolated incidents. Racial profiling and racist policing are core components of Ring’s business model, which profits off fear.”

The letter also warns about potential implications for abortion seekers and providers amid the overturn of Roe v. Wade. “In the wake of the reversal of Roe, footage from a Ring camera could be used to prosecute an abortion patient who goes out of state for healthcare — either by filming the clinic, capturing them leaving an Airbnb, or proving that they weren’t home for a few days,” the letter continues.

The organizations conclude the petition writing, “If aired, this show jeopardizes the rights and lives of viewers and their families. Ignoring the broader societal impact of Ring and airing ‘Ring Nation’ would be reckless. We call on [MGM] to cancel ‘Ring Nation.'”

Evan Greer, director of Fight for the Future, stated, “Ring cameras and the Neighbors app are the backbone of a massive privately-owned surveillance operation. It’s pretty crazy that they are even considered legal devices, and even more insane that anyone would make a TV show from the recorded footage. The fact that MGM studio executives thought something so dangerous could be fun family entertainment is mind-boggling.”

Media Justice campaign strategy director Myaisha Hayes said, “We cannot ignore the facts about ‘Ring Nation’: this is an Amazon-owned studio producing a comedy show about Amazon’s own dangerous surveillance product.”

Director of the Athena Coalition Ryan Gerety called the series an “insidious white-washing marketing scheme, aimed not only at popularizing Amazon’s mass surveillance Ring cameras, but also at obscuring the real harm Ring cameras inflict on Black and brown communities.”

Read the full letter here.

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