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Facebook launches accessibility and creator tools to make live-streaming available to more people

Automatic closed captioning and an audio-only mode

COVID-19 and its resulting social distancing measures have inspired lots of people to live stream, so Facebook says it’s going to launch various features over the next couple weeks to make Facebook Live more accessible and easy to use, particularly for people who might not have a lot of mobile data. The updates will be global.

The team is launching an audio-only mode, as well as automatic closed captions. It’s also giving people various ways to access a stream outside of Facebook, including logged-out support, which means people without a Facebook account can still tune into content. This accompanies Public Switched Telephone Network support, allowing streamers to generate toll-free telephone numbers so viewers can call into the audio of a live broadcast.

Other new features are more directed toward the people hosting live events. The company’s Stars function, which allows creators to make money over streams, is expanding to musicians and cultural institutions. Up until now, it’s mostly been used by gamers. The expansion is clearly a nod to other streaming platforms, like Twitch, where artists have been hosting live, donation-based streams.

Additionally, Facebook is providing partners, mostly faith-based and education organizations, with mobile phone accessories to help them go live. It’s also launching a “live producer” feature for more professional setups that require a connected camera and software encoder. The company says this feature will make managing live streams easier and includes tools like comment moderation, overlays, and clipping.