Walkie-Talkie App Zello Blocked in Venezuela

This early Thursday, Venezuelan netizens started to report that Zello, the push-to-talk “walkie-talkie” app, had stopped functioning on mobile phones. Many Venezuelans have been using the app to organize and exchange information about the protests that have escalated rapidly over the last eighteen days now. Zello reported more than 15,000 local downloads in a single day last week. The blockage happened a day after President Maduro declared that the government was intercepting communications sent using Zello in order to monitor protesters.

On Twitter, Andrés Azpurua said:

Apparently Zello is being blocked. It's unaccesible from CANTV/Movilnet, we're researching #BlackoutVE #freeinternetVE

The company asked users to report back using technical tools in order to understand the issue:

Loris Santamaria, a consultant in network infrastructure services, did a traceroute and reported:

On Thursday night, the company declared to Associated Press that the origin of the blockage was Venezuela's state-run telecommunications company, CANTV, which covers over 80% of the telecom market in the country. Later, they developed a new version, hoping that it would prove useful to circumvent the blockage:

Meanwhile, TunnelBear, the VPN company, who has been providing unlimited free service Venezuelans for several days, tweeted to Zello their approach:

Surveillance and censorship are increasingly serious concerns for all Internet and mobile phone users in Venezuela. Yesterday, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights issued a statement pressing upon the need for free access to information:

La Comisión Interamericana reitera a las autoridades venezolanas que es indispensable que en una sociedad democrática existan garantías suficientes para asegurar que la población tenga acceso al pluralismo y la diversidad informativa, especialmente en relación con temas de interés público y el acontecer nacional.

The Inter-American Commission reiterates to Venezuelan authorities that it is indispensable in a democratic society to ensure sufficient guarantees assuring that the population has access to pluralistic and diverse information, especially in relationship to matters of public and national interest.

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