Zello confirms use of walkie-talkie app during Capitol riots, will ‘ban all militia-related channels’

Zello, the popular walkie-talkie app, has confirmed the use of the app during last week’s Capitol riots and said it would “ban all militia-related channels.”

“It is with deep sadness and anger that we have discovered evidence of Zello being misused by some individuals while storming the United States Capitol building last week,” the company wrote in a statement. The company added it does not have any evidence of how it was used “beyond anecdotal reports of typical social media vanity messaging,” but noted it believes the service could be misused ahead of Joe Biden’s inauguration on Jan. 20.

As such, it is “taking immediate action to ban all militia-related channels, while clarifying a few important points relative to how Zello is used and explaining how you can help.”

In this Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021, file photo, violent protesters, loyal to President Donald Trump, storm the Capitol, in Washington. (AP Photo/John Minchillo, File)

In this Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021, file photo, violent protesters, loyal to President Donald Trump, storm the Capitol, in Washington. (AP Photo/John Minchillo, File)

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The service, which attempts to distance itself from the likes of Facebook or Parler, which was recently shut down and may not return, notes it was built around live voice communication, so it is “ephemeral in nature.” It does not store user data and communications are encrypted end-to-end. It also relies on its community to help spot violations of its terms of service.

“Without being able to rely on past conversations having taken place on these channels, we are doing our best to evaluate them against a recent addition to our terms of service,” Zello added. “While we used to impose limitations on the content alone, we have now extended the notion of abuse on the platform to include use by organizations whose principles or leaders specifically endorse or espouse violence. It is with that perspective that we have deleted 2,000+ channels associated with militias and other militarized social movements. A large proportion of these channels had not had any activity recorded in recent months or years.”

Earlier this week, The Guardian reported that at least two individuals who stormed the Capitol used the service, which claims to have 150 million users, to communicate with other militia members.

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The news outlet, which reviewed audio and chat logs of a public Zello channel called “STOP THE STEAL J6,” features one female militia member saying, “We are in the main dome right now. We are rocking it. They’re throwing grenades, they’re frickin’ shooting people with paintballs, but we’re in here.”

A male reportedly responded, saying, “God bless and godspeed. Keep going.”

Another male responded, saying “Jess, do your s***. This is what we f****** lived up for. Everything we f****** trained for.”

The Guardian added “Jess” could be Jessica Watkins, a 38-year-old bartender from Ohio. Watkins admitted to attending riots in an interview with the Ohio Capital Journal. She described herself as the leader of a local militia known as the Ohio State Regular, as well as a member of the Oath Keepers militia.

Watkins could not be reached for comment by Fox News.

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