Zello Confirms Rioters Used Walkie-Talkie App During Capitol Attack; Cancels 2,000 Channels

Zello has vowed to 'take action' amid fears that it will now be used to target Joe Biden's inauguration next week.

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Several rioters who stormed into the Capitol last week communicated via popular walkie-talkie social media app Zello, which has become popular among militias. Confirming the news, Zello said that it will take all possible steps to "ban all militia-related channels." Since then, Zello has been forced to cancel over 2,000 channels.

At least two people from the rioters used the walkie-talkie app to talk with other people, who appeared to be inciting them from other locations, according to audio and chat records obtained by The Guardian. The users can be heard in the audio tape discussing their locations on an open thread called STOP THE STEAL J6. At least five channels were created specifically to organize for January 6, the outlet reported.

Sound of Violence

Zello YouTube Grab

The audio tapes obtained reveal a lot about the way the militias operated during the attack on the Capitol. One in the mob identified as a bartender Jessica Watkins, 38, from Ohio, can be 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 vice form the other side, in reply, asks her to "keep going" and "do your s***". Another voice adds: "This is what we f***ing lived up for. Everything we f***ing trained for." The exchange over the walkie-talkie took place at around 2.44 pm on Jan. 6 in the public channel called STOP THE STEAL J6' that was particularly on the app for this purpose.

In another audiotape a woman can be heard saying: "We have a good group: 30 to 40 of us. We're sticking together and sticking to the plan. The police are doing nothing. They're not even trying to stop us."

In reply, the woman is told: "You are executing citizen's arrest. We have probable cause: treason, acts of treason, election fraud, all kinds of felony crimes, no competent authority."

Understandably, the entire riot was well planned with social media playing a major role. Zello becomes the latest among social media apps after Parler to have played a key role in facilitating the rioters.

Damage Control

Capitol attack
Rioters inside the Capitol building during the seize last week. Twitter

Zello, which claims to have 150 million users and has avoided the proactive moderation of far-right rhetoric, on Wednesday vowed to 'take action' amid fears it will now be used to target Joe Biden's inauguration next week. Besides locking some public features that would help researchers find more extremist content, the app has begun deleting several far-right groups.

As of now, the app has cancelled more than 2,000 channels after a company spokesperson confirmed that Zello played an active role on the day of the riot. "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," he said.

Zello had earlier been used by the Cajun Navy, a group of volunteers who aid people stranded in storms, but is also home to more than 800 far-right channels that appear to violate its policy that bars anyone who promotes "violent ideologies," the outlet reported.

Riot in Capitol
Supporters of US President Donald Trump gather near the US Capitol building in Washington, DC, the United States, Jan. 6, 2021. IANS

Interestingly, many of the users of Zello simultaneously used the Parler app also on that day. Watkins, whose voice can be heard in one of the audio tapes, was one such person. Watkins' Zello messages also bear a striking resemblance to her posts on Parler. "Yeah. We stormed the Capitol today. Teargassed, the whole, 9," she wrote on Parler, the Guardian reported. "Pushed our way into the rotunda. Made it into the Senate even."

On the other hand, records from other far-right channels reveal that Zello was used to organize and foment unrest in the lead-up to the riot. One such channel on the site called DC 3.0 featured instructions from a user, Josh Ellis, on how Zello would be used. "Once we go operational, this channel will just be for intel gathering and organizing on the backside. All information, once verified, will be put into the Telegram and then shared to boots on the ground from there," he can be heard saying.