Facebook and Twitter are playing a starring role in congressional Democrats' sit-in protesting gun violence today. After House cameras went dark a few minutes into the protest, Facebook Live and Periscope are the only sources of live video from the floor, creating a moment C-SPAN is calling extraordinary.
The House's video feed, regularly aired on CSPAN, disappeared from the network's airwaves as a result of a longstanding policy that when a session ends, the cameras go off. The cameras aren't owned or controlled by CSPAN; instead, they belong to the House, and the House Majority Leadership controls them. The presiding Representative, Republican Ted Poe of Texas, called a recess right after the protest began. So when some of the most compelling action on the House floor in years took place — sit-ins like this are very rare — the network was left with nothing. Until Representatives started live streaming their protest on Facebook Live and Periscope.
Subverting a rule against taking photos and videos, a number of Representatives are using the Twitter-owned Periscope and Facebook live to broadcast the sit-in to their followers. And when C-Span realized what was happening, it began airing the streams too, shifting between Periscope to Facebook Live to get footage from the House floor to its viewers, regardless of the dormant status of the House's cameras.
"This is a very remarkable moment right now," C-Span spokesman Howard Mortman told BuzzFeed News in an interview. The network, he said, has broadcast streams from Periscope and Facebook Live in other coverage before, but using Representatives' feeds like this is unprecedented.
Periscope was quick to capitalize on the moment, creating a dedicated feed for its users to watch the streams.
"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,” Periscope's CEO Kayvon Beykpour told BuzzFeed News. Beykpour also took a moment on Twitter to needle Facebook.
Twitter and Facebook are competing with each other to dominate “live” moments, but both seemed to get a boost today thanks to the House’s media policy.
Disclosure: BuzzFeed is a Facebook's Live paid partner.