Insurrectionists Reportedly Used Walkie-Talkie App Zello To Storm the Capitol

Illustration for article titled Insurrectionists Reportedly Used Walkie-Talkie App Zello To Storm the Capitol

Photo: Jon Cherry / Stringer (Getty Images)

Members of a violent and deadly mob that stormed the U.S. Capitol on January 6 reportedly communicated with each other through the walkie-talkie app Zello — a company long criticized for its failure to moderate the far-right extremist content it sometimes hosts.

According to audio and chat logs reviewed by The Guardian, at least two individuals who stormed the Capitol used Zello to communicate with other militia members who appeared to be egging them on from offsite locations.

“We are in the main dome right now,” a female militia member can be heard saying at one point. “We are rocking it. They’re throwing grenades, they’re frickin’ shooting people with paintballs, but we’re in here.”

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“God bless and godspeed,” a male voice reportedly responds. “Keep going.”

“Jess, do your shit,” says another. “This is what we fucking lived up for. Everything we fucking trained for.”

The exchange reportedly occurred in a public Zello channel called “STOP THE STEAL J6” around 2:44 p.m. The user in question appears to be Jessica Watkins, a 38-year-old bartender from Ohio who recently told the Ohio Capital Journal that she had participated in the insurrection on behalf of both a local militia called the Ohio State Regular and the national Oath Keepers militia.

Zello, which claims to have 150 million users, said in a press release that it was with “deep sadness and anger” that its leadership team had discovered “evidence of Zello being misused by some individuals while storming the United States Capitol building last week.”

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In response to nearly 800 channels that were found to be hosting right-wing content, the app said that it had updated its terms of service and “extended the notion of abuse on the platform to include use by organizations whose principles or leaders specifically endorse or espouse violence.”

Zello also announced that it had deleted more than 2,000 channels associated with militias and other militarized social movements. In a chilling conclusion to its press release, the company said that it was “concerned that Zello could be misused by groups who have threatened to organize additional potentially violent protests and disrupt the U.S. Presidential Inauguration Festivities on January 20th.”

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As The Guardian points out, Zello likely has inherent broad appeal to militia groups, due to their frequent tendency to fetishize military-style radio communication and warlike modes of operation.

2020 Has Been One Godawful Year, but Not for OnlyFans

Illustration for article titled 2020 Has Been One Godawful Year, but Not for OnlyFans

Screenshot: OnlyFans

While I realize that the world won’t magically reset when the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Eve, I’m still counting down the days until this cursed year is over. I mean, the universe has to be running out of ammo to hit us with, right? So far 2020’s seen an ongoing global pandemic, the spread of murder hornets, a fire tornado, widespread political and social unrest, and the president and his supporters calling to bring back public executions.

But for at least one company, all those months of people stuck quarantined in their homes has made 2020 one of its most successful years on record. OnlyFans, a subscription-based social media platform where creators charge fans to access their content, has gone viral over the year in large part to user testimonials on TikTok and shoutouts from high-profile celebrities like Beyoncé and Michael B. Jordan, among others. It bills itself as a way for creators, especially those who have already built up a following on other social media platforms, to monetize their content and cater directly to fan requests with custom video and photos.

The platform, which is open to all creators but most closely associated with adult entertainment, generated more than $2 billion in sales this year, the company’s founder and CEO Tim Stokely said in a recent Bloomberg interview. He claimed OnlyFans is “revolutionizing creator and fan relations.”

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“I thought, ‘What if you could build a platform that works like these social platforms already out there but with a key difference being the payment button?’” he told the outlet, adding: “It works as a great bolt-on to free social media. One of our selling pitches is, ‘Look, you’ve got a million followers on Instagram, if just 1% of them pay for Only Fans…’”

OnlyFans currently has more than 1 million creators that collectively rake in roughly $200 million per month, and its userbase of 85 million is growing by as much as 500,000 every day, according to Stokely. To put those figures into perspective, in 2019, another leading subscription-based content platform, Patreon, had 100,000 creators and just surpassed $1 billion in payouts after six years in business, per Techcrunch.

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OnlyFans takes a roughly 20% cut from what its creators earn, so the company stands to make more than $400 million in annual net sales this year, Bloomberg reported. While it’s been around since 2016, its growth has ballooned since March as the pandemic’s spread pushed more people to stay at home. Per the New York Times, the company reported 3.7 million new sign-ups in just a month—a 75% increase— with 60,000 of them being new creators. OnlyFans saw another huge traffic spike of around 15% in May after Beyoncé name-dropped it in a remix of “Savage” by rapper Megan Thee Stallion, a song that ironically also went viral on TikTok.

Stokely said the idea to launch OnlyFans was the culmination of several of his lesser-known online business ventures built around giving creators a place to sell their content, one of which was specifically geared toward fetishists, which should come as no surprise given OnlyFans’ reputation as a hub for NSFW content.

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In its expansion this year, OnlyFans has also started seeing a wider variety of creators coming to its platform, from musicians like Cardi B and Swae Lee to TikTok stars and other celebrities. As mentioned before, the actor Michael B. Jordan of Creed and Black Panther fame has said he plans to make an OnlyFans account and leverage his recent win as People Magazine’s Sexiest Man Alive this year to raise money for a new business venture: a barber school.

What’s next on the horizon? In his interview with Bloomberg, Stokely said that OnlyFans plans to set up offices in Asia and Latin America and is working on a streaming service, OFTV, to host exclusive content from its creators, which could be anything from interviews to full-blown series. We’ve reached out to the company for further details on the service’s format and potential launch date, and will update with their response.

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I’m not surprised to see that OnlyFans made beaucoup bucks this year after seeing so many people talk about it on my timeline these past few months, though $2 billion in sales is way higher than anything I would have guessed. I think its success says something about the human condition: No matter how much the world burns around them, people will always be thirsty.

[Bloomberg]

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Twitter Will Now Warn You Before You Like a Tweet Containing Misleading Information

Illustration for article titled Twitter Will Now Warn You Before You Like a Tweet Containing Misleading Information

Photo: Leon Neal / Staff (Getty Images)

Expanding upon an existing feature that warns users who attempt to retweet content that has already been flagged as “misleading information,” Twitter will now issue the same warning when users attempt to like content that has been similarly designated.

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In the lead-up to the 2020 presidential election, Twitter announced in September that it planned to debut a number of policies aimed at curbing misinformation around the vote totals, pledging to tack on “additional warnings and restrictions on Tweets with a misleading information label from US political figures (including candidates and campaign accounts).”

The platform soon made good on that promise, flagging one of President Donald Trump’s tweets with a warning that “some or all of the content shared in this tweet is disputed” with just hours to go until voting in the general election got underway.

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In a tweet, Twitter said that those prompts and others like them had helped to decrease quote tweets of the misleading information by 29%, prompting the platform to unveil similar speed bumps designed to slow users’ propensity to “like” tweets containing falsehoods.

The option for users to pause and think before hitting ‘like’ or ‘retweet’ is part of a larger suite of features aimed at curbing the spread of misinformation that Twitter has recently unveiled. When users try to hit retweet on a tweet containing a link to an article they haven’t read, for example, the site now prompts a message encouraging the user to, you know, read the article before blindly sharing it with their followers.

The decision to add warning labels to “liked” tweets was first reported on by Jane Manchun Wong, a Hong Kong-based software engineer notorious for unveiling new features that apps like Twitter, Instagram and TikTok are testing in beta by reverse-engineering their code.

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Although Twitter initially claimed that the new features would be in place “at least” until Election Day, the fact that they’re still being debuted more than three weeks out suggests that a longer-term approach towards content deamplification might be underway.