The popular walkie talkie app Zello said Wednesday that it had deleted more than 2,000 channels “associated with militias and other militarized social movements” in light of evidence that users had employed the app during the storming of the U.S. Capitol last week.
In a blog post on its website, the company said it had “discovered evidence” of its app being misused by individuals while they stormed the Capitol, but hedged that “we do not have any evidence of how Zello was effectively used beyond anecdotal reports of typical social media vanity messaging.”
The channel deletions were partially out of concern that the app would be misused in the future, Zello said, “by groups who have threatened to organize additional potentially violent protests and disrupt the U.S. Presidential Inauguration Festivities on January 20th.”
The deletions came shortly after a report in The Guardian on the app’s use during the Capitol siege authored by a couple of reporters who’ve long tracked the app’s use by right-wing extremists and members of militia groups.
Micah Loewinger and Hampton Stall, who reported on Zello use by far-right groups in October, transcribed the apparent conversation of one Zello user who stormed the Capitol with her Ohio-based militia group on the channel “STOP THE STEAL J6.”
“We are in the main dome right now,” the Zello user, who the reporters determined was likely the Ohio-based militia member Jessica Watkins, said through the walkie talkie app.
“We are rocking it,” Watkins reportedly said. “They’re throwing grenades, they’re frickin’ shooting people with paintballs, but we’re in here.”
“God bless and Godspeed. Keep going,” a male Zello user on the channel responded.
“Jess, do your shit,” another voice chimed in. “This is what we fucking lived up for. Everything we fucking trained for.”
The Ohio Capitol Journal first identified Watkins and her militia group, Ohio State Regular. Watkins is also reportedly affiliated with the national Oath Keepers group.