By Amy Tennery
(Reuters) - A blackout of television cameras in the U.S. House Representatives during the Democrats' gun control sit-in may have spurred public interest in the protest as it forced the demonstrators to use social media to broadcast their message.
Democrats leapt on Facebook Live <FB.O> and Twitter's <TWTR.N> Periscope after the cameras, controlled by the House, went dark Wednesday when presiding House officer and Republican Representative Ted Poe declared the chamber not in order during the protest.
As Democrats took to alternative forms of video broadcasting, their message gained tremendous momentum from social media. On Twitter, the hashtags #NoBillNoBreak and #HoldTheFloor have been tweeted at least 1.4 million times.
Of the roughly 20 members of Congress who remained at the sit-in overnight, 19 of them used Facebook Live for a total combined viewership of 3 million.
“It really connected with people out there,” Congressman Scott Peters told Reuters. "This whole phenomenon with [live video] struck a nerve."
Peters used the application Periscope, which is connected to the social media platform Twitter, to send out video.
“Without that, think about it, it would have been a caucus meeting where we talk to ourselves," he added.
In remarks Wednesday outside the Capitol, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi praised how her party harnessed social media.
"Without you and without the technology of Periscope [the sit-in] would just be a debate in the Halls of Congress unrecorded because they turned off the microphones," Pelosi said. "But we raised our voices.They turned off the cameras and we went to Periscope."
Congressman Mark Takano, who began posting live videos from the chamber to his Facebook page Wednesday afternoon and continued to throughout the night, said the social media video helped him connect with constituents.
"Once I got started with the live streaming I didn’t feel like I could let down the people who were following me,” said Takano. “It was a way to push out a message.”
Even C-SPAN, which typically broadcasts footage recorded by the House cameras, picked up live video from four different members of Congress roughly two hours after the House cameras shut down, according to communications director Howard Mortman. It marked the first time the channel broadcast a live social media feed from the House floor.
"Something interesting is happening with Facebook Live that's bringing more openness to the political process," said Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, in a post to his social media profile Thursday.
"It's a way to share anything you want with the world using just your phone."
(Reporting By Amy Tennery; additional reporting by Angela Moon in New York and Susan Cornwell in Washington; Editing by Andrew Hay)