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Dems use Facebook Live, Periscope to broadcast sit-in after House cameras go dark

Twitter and Facebook Live became prominent tools of political communication on Wednesday for congressional Democrats protesting gun violence on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives.

The planned sit-in was left without a TV audience after C-SPAN’s cameras stopped rolling due to the Republican leadership sending the House into recess.

C-SPAN elaborated that it had no control over the matter, seeing as its feed is operated by the House recording studio. With the cameras off, representatives took to their smartphones to live-stream their protest on Periscope and Facebook Live instead.

When C-SPAN caught wind of the broadcasts, it began airing the streams in an effort to chronicle the rare sit-in. C-SPAN’s footage shifted between the Periscope and Facebook Live clips as it continued to broadcast from the House floor without the aid of its own cameras.

Both Facebook and Periscope jumped on the opportunity to promote their respective live-streams. The latter created a dedicated feed for its users to tune into the broadcasts. In a first for Facebook, the social network highlighted the #NoBillNoBreak sit-in on its trending topics sidebar, with a “Live” icon accompanying the link.

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Periscope CEO Kayvon Beykpour also took the opportunity to take a swipe at his company’s rival, by sharing a tweet that implied that Twitter’s app was favored by the sit-in’s participants. He was probably unaware that Facebook Live was also being utilized by the social-media savvy Democrats.

“Today is an example of what drives us. Twitter and Periscope take you where other cameras don’t — letting you experience breaking news through the eyes of those living it,” Beykpour said in a statement.

The protesters decision to use live-streams was in violation of a rule against taking photos and videos in the House. Among the Democrats noted to be live-streaming from the House floor were Rep. Scott Peters of California and Rep. Beto O’Rourke of Texas.

“This is a milestone moment,” C-SPAN spokesman Howard Mortman told Politico. “We’ve got a commitment to C-SPAN as a public service, a privately funded public service to connect Americans to Congress to show what’s happening in Congress … this certainly rises to the event of something happening in Congress.”