If you’re looking for how to film a livestream yourself, go here.

Viewers around the world are witnessing in real-time as hundreds of thousands of people in Myanmar take to the streets to oppose the 2021 military coup. Activists’ and ordinary people’s livestreams on Facebook and other platforms are capturing mass protests, arrests, and violence by security forces, and sharing them with the international community. 

screenshot from a livestream
Activist’s livestream from Myanmar.

Help others by downloading livestreams

While these streams carry important information and evidence, streamers may have trouble saving copies of their own streams. They may not be able to prioritize downloading, have security concerns about holding onto them, or their internet may be throttled, making downloading slow or expensive. Moreover, videos can be lost if they contain violence and Facebook or Twitter removes them for violating policies. One way that people watching remotely can support streamers is to download and save the streams, preserving them outside of the platform and out of the reach of local security forces.

Solidarity with people of Myanmar.

Saving livestreams can be useful for preserving evidence of human rights crimes captured by activists, bystanders and even perpetrators of violations like police and the army, who may take down their own streams or have their streams taken down by platforms.

screenshot of bellingcat tweet
From another situation this year: Bellingcat asks people to download streams of US Capitol riots before they are deleted.

Maximize your efforts by coordinating with streamers and others around the world who are doing collection and preservation, as well as with advocates who can use these streams to support people in Myanmar. We don’t know when or how justice and accountability will be pursued, but we have learned from groups like Syrian Archive that video evidence can play an important role in prosecuting cases years later, and for historical memory and truth-telling.

Livestreams can be risky!

Use this guidance to support others who don’t have the opportunity to save their own livestreams, but remember that livestreaming carries risks for both the filmer and the people in a video. 

Before re-sharing, consider who you are sharing with, how the video could be used, and whether you should blur someone’s face or edit out any parts that reveal people’s identities beforehand.

How to download livestreams and other videos from social media

Screen-record, if the stream might not be saved

Downloading streams after broadcast

These tips cover how to download livestreams uploaded by other people. For tips on how to save your own livestreams, check out this post (will be updated soon!).

Note: The tools we are recommending here are either tools that we use, or that we’ve heard that others use, but we cannot guarantee that they are safe. This is especially true for tools that are not open-source, since they are less transparent. EFF has a useful guide on how you can assess and make appropriate choices for yourself. One general precaution we recommend is running anti-virus software on your device.

Screen-record, if the stream might not be saved

Generally, livestreams can only be downloaded after broadcast, not while they’re still streaming. If you’re concerned that a video will not be available afterwards, one option is to use a screen recording tool to record the video while it’s broadcasting. Screen recording is also an easy way to capture comments as they are posted, which may provide useful information or context, although keep in mind potential security concerns with capturing commenters’ identities and the information they share. 

Computer

OBS (Open Broadcaster Studio) is a free and open source software for livestreaming that can also be used to make recordings from a browser. One of the benefits of OBS over some of the other options below is that you can capture the audio directly, rather than over your computer microphone (which captures other ambient sounds).

Screenshot of OBS studio while capturing browser feed

Basic steps:

  • In the Sources box, “+” > “Browser” > paste the URL > (optional) adjust width and height to your browser window size > Check “Control audio via OBS.”
  • Right-click canvas > “Interact” to open a separate window to interact with the website (e.g. pressing play).
  • Click “Start Recording,” and then “Stop Recording” when you’re done.
  • File > Show Recordings to access the recorded file

Mobile

Some newer Android phones, like Samsung and LG, have built-in screen recorders with internal audio. If your phone doesn’t have its own recorder, Screen Recorder is a free (has ads) and simple app for screen recording. It’s not open-source, but it’s regularly updated and widely downloaded on the Play Store.

Screenshot of screen recorder app interface

A note about audio: Regardless of what screen recording app you use, it wasn’t possible to record internal audio on Android phones until Android 10. The alternative for older phones is to record audio over the microphone, although note that this will capture external sounds as well. 

Again, be aware of potential security risks  if screen recording livestream comments, which may reveal identities or information that can be used against people. Also, be aware of inadvertently recording message notifications that pop on your phone — turn off notifications before recording.

Downloading streams after broadcast

If you are fairly certain that the stream will be available after broadcast, it is a lot easier to download streams as files than recording them live off your screen. 

Will the stream be available after broadcast? 

  • Facebook automatically saves live videos and keeps them available after broadcast, although streamers can opt to “unpublish” them.
  • Twitter automatically saves live videos and keeps them available after broadcast.
  • YouTube automatically saves live videos but allows streamers to make them unlisted after broadcast.
  • Instagram automatically saves live videos to the streamer’s private Live Archive for 30 days, but makes it optional for streamers to share them on IGTV.
  • Twitch does not automatically save live videos unless the broadcaster has enabled the Video on Demand feature. Even then, broadcasts are deleted after a period of time (14-60 days depending on the account), unless the broadcaster “highlights” the video.

For platforms where saving is optional, you can ask the streamer to enable the feature. Of course, even if a video is saved, there is always the risk that a platform may remove a video or that the streamer will need to remove the video, so you should still download as soon as possible.

screenshot from a livestream
Remote witness asks a streamer to save the stream so that they can help download afterwards.

Computer

4K Video Downloader is a free and simple app (with ads) that can download from most major platforms (except Twitter). It’s not open-source, but it’s widely used and we have not heard any malware problems associated with it.

screenshot of 4k downloader interface
4K Video Downloader.

For Twitter, you can use Twitter’s Tweetdeck on your desktop or browser and just right-click the video and directly download/save the video).

screenshot of tweetdeck and right-click download option
Downloading with Tweetdeck.

Alternately, YouTube-DL is a widely used open-source tool that can download from almost any platform and can do batch downloads. It can seem intimidating because you have to use it in the command-line, but it’s actually quite simple to use once you have it installed. Citizen Evidence Lab has a tutorial.

Screenshot of youtube-dl running
A video downloading on YouTube-DL.

Note: 4k Video Downloader and Youtube-DL can download video, but not the livestream comments, descriptions, or other elements of the webpage. If these are important for you to collect, Webrecorder is an open-source and easy-to-use tool and browser extension for capturing entire webpages. The webpage is saved in WARC format, and is “replayable” as a fully interactive webpage. Keep in mind any additional security risks of capturing commenters’ identities and the information they share.

Screenshot of webrecorder replayweb page displaying a Facebook livestream from Myanmar
Viewing an archived Facebook page with video and comments.

Mobile

It’s easier to download videos using a computer, but if you are relying on a mobile phone, there are still some options.

For Facebook, Frost for Facebook is a third-party, open-source Facebook wrapper (i.e. an alternative Facebook app) that has an easy download feature. You need to log into your Facebook account to use it. If you are concerned about providing this information, consider using a secondary Facebook account. Note: an issue that users have identified is that Facebook may think your login is suspicious and temporarily block your account.

download button in frost for facebook app
Video download using Frost for Facebook.

For YouTube, New Pipe is a third-party, open-source Youtube app that enables easy downloading. You don’t need to login to use it.

screenshot of new pipe for youtube app
Video download using New Pipe.

For Twitter, Twitter’s Tweetdeck allows downloads, if you switch to the Desktop instead of Mobile version in your browser.

download from tweetdeck desktop site on in android chrome
In Chrome settings, turn on desktop sites, then in Tweetdeck, press-hold on the video for the download link.

Many people use other third-party browser-based services like FBDown, which can be accessed from any web browser, as well as phone apps like VidMate and SnapTube. However, services like this are less transparent than open-source options (although not all open-source options are necessarily safe), and downloading videos with them can introduce malware. No matter which browser-based service you use, some precautions you can take include disabling javascript, using a private browser like DuckDuckGo, using “incognito mode”, and running anti-virus software on your device.

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