Television is old news. If the revolution is televised at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland it will be hours after events are documented by an army of mobile streaming devices, broadcasting news in real time.
On Monday, the first day of the RNC, inside the Quicken Loans arena, and on the streets outside, thousands of bystanders, delegates, protesters, police, and media held phones aloft and used services like Periscope, Facebook Live, and Snapchat to document events. Surrounded by 10-foot tall fences and armed security officers, protests erupted outside the convention hall.
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One police officer estimated the rowdy-but-peaceful demonstration at over a thousand protesters, while several protesters said the crowd was much smaller, around 500 people. Nearly every protester, media reporter, and even several police officers captured events with Android and iOS devices.
CNET's Terry Collins reported from the protest:
Welcome to protesting in the Digital Age. Smartphones and apps are to today's demonstrators what bullhorns and placards were to a previous generation. Wield the technology correctly and you can organize your supporters, disrupt the status quo and get your message to the world.
While groups represented diverse factions ranging from Trump supporters to Black Lives Matters and Black Block anarchists, protests were controlled and funnelled to secure zones around the city. To secure the city and convention, the city of Cleveland received a $50 million grant from the federal government. Convention security forces communicated using encrypted radio channels, as well as broadcasts accessed from police scanners.
Organizers chattered using verbal chants and sometimes shouted safety tips and police movements from live updates posted originally on Twitter and Facebook. "My friends use Telegram and just text messages to check up on each other before and during a march," one protester said.
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In addition to hefting traditional broadcast cameras, reporters from local, national, and global news companies snapped photos and streamed protests across the city. "It was raucus outside [Quicken Loans Arena], and outside," said one national reporter for a new media outlet who asked not to be identified. "I [streamed] Periscope from protests, then ran inside and got the convention."
Even traditional news companies are streaming. CBS News, TechRepublic and CBS Interactive's sister news organization, and Twitter teamed up to provide live web broadcasts of the RNC and next week's Democratic National Convention.
Even as private Wi-Fi networks fell, and protesters chanted and live-streamed, AT&T's data network remained robust. The telecommunications company invested nearly $250 million to improve Cleveland's wired and wireless network by tripling 4G coverage, upgrading 150 LTE towers, and deploying several roving cellular broadcast stations. "Our goal is to keep people, especially delegates and others [at each convention] for official business, connected on the floor of the arena, and in the city of Cleveland in general," said a company spokesperson in an interview with TechRepublic last week.
Since January TechRepublic has used social media and big data to quantify candidate performance and to document news events. If you're a protester, delegate, data scientist, social media professional, or inquisitive TechRepublic reader we'd love your ideas on how to inspect campaign social media data. Please leave a comment below or ping us on Twitter @TechRepublic.
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Dan Patterson has nothing to disclose. He does not hold investments in the technology companies he covers.
Dan is a Senior Writer for TechRepublic. He covers cybersecurity and the intersection of technology, politics and government.