Periscope, Facebook Live and a 21st-century gun control dispute

23 Jun 2016

Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures, with US politicians streaming a protest on Periscope and Facebook Live after the TVs were shut down.

The US House of Representatives is a mess at the moment, with the minority Democrats staging a sit-in to protest the lack of movement on gun control laws in the country.

The House is led by the Republican Party, and no movement on gun legislation, despite the relentless reality of mass shootings in the US, has forced Democrats’ hands – the sit-in comes ahead of a recess until after July 4, which seems a long time of inactivity given the circumstances.

Future Human

Gun control

Gun control sluggish

According to the BBC’s Laura Bicker, 100 bills to do with gun control have gone before Congress in the past five years. All have failed.

Following the recent Orlando killings, enough is enough for hundreds of Democrat politicians. By yesterday evening (23 June), 168 of the 188 House Democrats – and 34 of the party’s 44 senators – were staging a sit-in.

TV cameras in the House – broadcast by C-Span – are controlled by the House, meaning the Republican party manages the feed. When the sit-in kicked off, the cameras cut out.

But, this being 2016, there are various avenues around this. So politicians began streaming the event on Periscope and Facebook Live, providing both nascent streaming platforms with a huge boost in importance.

Tomorrow’s world

It may seem churlish to look at the technological side of a sit-in, given the reason the politicians are so up in arms is due to so many deaths.

However, this seems like a pivotal moment in US politics – and perhaps beyond – in which our everyday technologies create avenues beyond those traditionally relied upon.

C-Span began running the footage straight from Periscope, relying on the handiwork of politicians rather than camera crews –Democrat Scott Peters, in particular.

Facebook Live wasn’t far behind, with CNN using FaceTime to interview another politician. This all goes against the strict broadcasting policy of the House, however, needs must.

This all reminds me of Roslyn Fuller, a lady who ran in the last Irish general election on a ‘direct digital democracy’ platform.

Her idea was her constituents would decide what way she voted on subjects, with the question posted online and people voting in the direction they felt happiest.

It didn’t work for Fuller, or direct digital democracy in general. However, the digitisation of politics has never been more prominent.

Mobile could really become politics’ real ‘access all areas’ destination.

House of Representatives image via Drop of Light/Shutterstock

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic