In an open letter, 40 racial justice, privacy rights, and worker advocacy organizations called on Mark Burnett, Chairman of MGM Television, and Barry Poznick, President of MGM Unscripted Television, to cancel the upcoming reality tv series, Ring Nation. The letter, part of 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.
Signed by Fight for the Future, Media Justice, Athena, Center for Race and Digital Justice, Detroit Community Technology Project and other key organizations, the letter highlights the dangers Amazon Ring’s surveillance network poses to Black and brown lives.
“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. 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 reads.
Racial justice concerns aren’t the only issues raised in the letter. The organizations also warn about potential implications for abortion seekers and providers. “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 organizations conclude the letter by saying “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.”
The complete the list of sign ons: Fight for the Future; Media Justice; Action Center on Race & the Economy; Alternate ROOTS; Aspiration; Athena; Black Voices Theater Production; Center for Race and Digital Justice; Comfrey Films; Demos; Detroit Community Technology Project; Dignity and Power NOW; Envision Freedom Fund; For Us Not Amazon; FREE! Families Rally for Emancipation and Empowerment; Generation Justice; Institute for Local Self-Reliance; Jobs With Justice; Just Futures Law; Kairos; La ColectiVA; Main Street Alliance; May First Movement Technology; Media Alliance; MPower Change; Muslim Counterpublics Lab; OLE; Open Markets Institute; PhillyCAM; Progressive Technology Project; Secure Justice; Stop LAPD Spying Coalition; SumOfUs; SURJ Northern Virginia; Surveillance Technology Oversight Project; The Surveillance, Tech & Immigration Policing Project at the Immigrant Defense Projec; United We Dream; Urbana-Champaign Independent Media Center; Weequahic Park Association; and WITNESS. Read the full letter here.
Signing organizations issued the following statements:
This statement can be attributed to Evan Greer (she/they), Director of Fight for the Future:
“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. When this show airs, it will fuel the expansion of Ring’s neighborhood surveillance network, and that will lead to people getting hurt, or even worse. And then what? Will MGM cancel the show? It’ll be too late. MGM needs to cancel Ring Nation now.”
This statement can be attributed to Myaisha Hayes (she/her), Campaign Strategy Director at Media Justice:
“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. Instead of ending its surveillance partnerships with law enforcement and shutting down its discriminatory Neighbors app, Amazon thinks a Ring rebrand will be enough to silence the public’s calls for justice. A few funny videos won’t distract us from the harm these devices create for communities of color. Not only is this a transparent and tired PR tactic, it will also deepen the pockets of a corporation that has made a business of criminalizing Black people. MGM needs to cancel this show immediately.”
This statement can be attributed to the Athena Coalition:
“Ring Nation” is 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. Amazon can try to hide behind videos of funny animals, marriage proposals, and “heartwarming” neighborhood interactions, but we know the truth: Ring cameras aid and abet dragnet police surveillance, harass Amazon delivery workers, and muzzle our first amendment rights to speak out against injustice. Amazon’s acquisition of MGM kicked off its recent merger spree, making the dangers of unchecked growth and monopoly power are clear: Amazon can now freely use the massive film studio to churn out corporate propaganda, masked as “entertainment,” while normalizing corporate surveillance in our homes and neighborhoods.