On April 13, 2017, Russia blocked Zello. This action follows a notice we received from the Russian regulator, Roskomnadzor, that Zello is not in compliance with a law that governs information distribution brokers (Article 10.1 of the Federal Law of 27.07.2006 number 149-FZ).
“Information distribution broker” is how the Russian law describes Internet communications services and includes messenger apps, email providers, and social networks. The law requires that all such services store all application messages and user data in Russia. We would be required to provide this data to law enforcement upon their request. We would also provide law enforcement with the means of surveillance on Zello conversations globally and would have to share all Zello encryption keys with FSB, the Russian state security organization.
These are requirements that we are not able to meet or willing to comply with, even if we could.
Zello is popular in Russia, with more than 400,000 active users there. Like Zello users everywhere, Russians use the app to connect with family members and friends and to participate in social, political, and humanitarian conversations and events. But it is also used by search and rescue personnel, taxi services, law enforcement, and drivers needing assistance.
No other global service would be willing to meet this Roskomnadzor law. We cannot speculate why the Russian government is blocking their citizens’ communication through Zello.
Besides Zello, the only other major service known to be blocked is LinkedIn, which also refused to comply with the Roskomnadzor and has been blocked in Russia since November 2016.
Zello Channels are a powerful feature of the app which makes it easy to create groups for public or private conversations. Large numbers of Zello users in Ukraine, Hong Kong, Venezuela, Turkey, and Egypt have relied on Zello to organize democratic political movements in their countries.
Russians who rely on Zello should use VPN solutions to continue using Zello.
Zello is working on deploying technology to circumvent the block.
Related press coverage from the Roskomnadzor warning last week:
Story about trucker strike with Zello mention
News from Venezuelan block of Zello
News from Ukraine use of Zello