Zello confirmed that its app was used during last week’s Capitol siege and vows to “ban all militia-related channels” from now on.
The popular walkie-talkie app released a statement saying, “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.”
Zello also said it does not have any evidence of how the app was used “beyond anecdotal reports of typical social media vanity messaging” and believes the service could be misused before President-elect Joe Biden’s January 20 inauguration.
In the meantime, the company 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.”
Zello separates itself from other platforms such as Facebook and Parler by designing itself to provide live voice communication for its 150 million users. It doesn’t store user data, and communications are encrypted end-to-end, Fox News reports.
Zello relies on its community users to pinpoint 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.”
The Guardian reported earlier this week that at least two pro-Trump rioters used Zello while storming the Capitol and reviewed audio and chat logs of a public Zello Channel titled, “Stop the Steal J6.” According to the outlet, one female militia member was heard 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 was heard responding, “God bless and godspeed. Keep going.”
“Jess, do your s***. This is what we f****** lived up for. Everything we f****** trained for,” another male responded.
The Guardian suggested “Jess” could be Jessica Watkins, a 38-year-old bartender from Ohio. She has since admitted to being a participant of the riot in an interview with the Ohio Capital-Journal and says she spearheads a local militia known as the Ohio State Regular and is a member of the Oath Keepers militia.
She could not be reached for comment.