Facebook’s new live-streaming service and similar apps, like Twitter’s Periscope, offer the ability not just to record video but to broadcast events as they are unfolding.

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After back-to-back killings of black men by police officers this week, scores of African Americans declared on social media that they would be equipping themselves with a powerful tool: Facebook Live.

Facebook’s new live-streaming service and similar apps, like Twitter’s Periscope, offer the ability not just to record video but to broadcast events as they are unfolding.

Viewers saw this firsthand when a woman streamed her boyfriend, Philando Castile, clutching his bloodied chest during a traffic stop in Falcon Heights, Minn., late Wednesday, moments after he was shot by the police. As of Thursday, the video had been watched nearly 4 million times.

Those images on Facebook, along with the police shooting of Alton Sterling a day earlier in Baton Rouge, La., uploaded to YouTube and other platforms, reinforced the power of video, especially when live, in drawing public attention.

After news of the shootings spread, many in the active black community on Twitter vowed to begin making live recordings of every interaction they had with the police.

Sean Cochran, 34, of Detroit, said on Twitter that he would begin using Facebook Live the next time he was pulled over. In an interview, he said that if officers knew that their behavior was being scrutinized in real time, they might be less likely to escalate traffic stops into life-threatening situations.

“If I verbally express to a police officer, ‘This is live,’ that puts the pressure on them,” Cochran said. “They’ve got to play by the book.”

Video has increasingly enabled citizens to document their interactions with the police. In 1991, the plumber who captured footage of Los Angeles police officers beating Rodney King used a Sony Handycam and then sent the videotape to a local news station. Even with powerful digital cameras in smartphones, it still often took hours or days for footage to find its way online as recently as two years ago.

That has changed greatly with the introduction of tools like Periscope in March 2015 and Facebook Live, which became available to all users in April. Videos can be streamed even before an encounter is over, leaving no time for investigations or official statements.

Diamond Reynolds, the girlfriend of Castile, said during another Facebook Live session Thursday that she put the video online to hold the officers accountable.

“I wanted to put it on Facebook and go viral so that the people could see,” said Reynolds, who uses the name Lavish Reynolds online. “I want the people to determine who was right and who was wrong.”

Michelle Gross, president of Communities United Against Police Brutality, based in Minnesota, said the spread of apps that instantly store video online represented a transformation in holding police accountable.

Gross’ group has distributed fliers encouraging residents in the Minneapolis area to download the Bambuser app, which immediately saves video online and protects it with a password. She said her group had heard of police officers confiscating and erasing images from cellphones.

Ademo Freeman, founder of CopBlock, a group dedicated to documenting police actions, said he had recommended dedicated apps like Bambuser but that Facebook, with more than 1 billion active users, had a big advantage.

“Facebook is something that everybody has, so it is very easy,” Freeman said.

As many videos of police encounters online have demonstrated, some officers react testily to being filmed. In May, James Comey, the director of the FBI, suggested that a spike in violent crime in some cities could be traced to a growing reluctance of police officers to confront suspects for fear of ending up on a video, a claim that critics rejected as unproven.

Jim Pasco, executive director of the National Fraternal Order of Police, said police officers told they were on live video would probably react in different ways — some might be more inhibited, while others would proceed as normal. They are only human and telling them they are being broadcast is provocative, he said.

Any technological advance that adds to information for investigators could be helpful, including live streaming, he said. But he warned that videos did not always tell the full story, something borne out by research.

“Any recording can ultimately be helpful, but at the same time, it can’t be viewed as DNA,” he said. “It doesn’t have that level of conclusiveness.”

Arthur Reed, the leader of the anti-violence group that released the cellphone video of the Baton Rouge shooting, said the case demonstrated the power that regular people had at their fingertips.

Reed’s group did not use a live-streaming app to capture the encounter but decided to circulate the footage online to counter reports in which the police said Sterling had reached for a gun.

“We don’t have to beg the media to come and report on the stories,” Reed said. “We can put it out on social media now, and the story gets told.”

Facebook Live is typically used for more innocuous, everyday occasions, like a backyard barbecue or a leisurely park stroll. Facebook also pays a number of publishers, including The New York Times, to create live broadcasts.

It has a team of moderators watching videos as they go live and will remove those that “are shared for sadistic pleasure or to celebrate or glorify violence.”

Facebook will allow violent videos to remain if they are shared to spread awareness of the devastation of violence. Several shooting deaths have been inadvertently captured via live streaming. In June, a man in Chicago was shot while he was filming himself, and audio of upset witnesses could be heard on the recording long after he dropped his phone.