The power and dangers of citizen videos, from Rodney King to George Floyd

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People gathered outside the Los Angeles Police Department during civil unrest on April 29, 1992, following the jury's decision in the Rodney King beating case. Photo courtesy of Los Angeles Photographers Photo Collection.

It may seem steep to pay $225,000 for a 29-year-old video camera that doesn’t even work anymore. That was the starting bid last week for a Sony Handycam that captured the beating of Rodney King.

On March 3, 1991, more than a decade before YouTube and viral videos, a 31-year-old plumber named George Holliday captured the beating with his camcorder and hand-delivered the recording to KTLA reporter Stan Chambers at Channel 5 News.

That video changed the course of LA history. 

Today, cameras are everywhere, allowing people to instantly make video public, like the killing of George Floyd. But in an era of misinformation, manipulation, and “cancel culture,” that power comes with immense responsibility.

Guest: Ramesh Srinivasan, Professor at UCLA; author, "Beyond the Valley: How Innovators Around the World are Overcoming Inequality and Creating the Technologies of Tomorrow"