IN THE EARLY morning of September 9, 2016, Bill Moore, CEO of the Austin-based walkie-talkie app company Zello, contacted the Middle East Media Research Institute. He was seeking a copy of a report MEMRI had recently published describing how ISIS members and supporters were using Zello, which allows people to send voice messages to each other in private and also public channels. Moore had learned about the findings through a Google Alert.
“Can you share a copy of the report explaining ISIS uses Zello? I’m the CEO of Zello,” the message read, according to emails reviewed by WIRED and confirmed by Moore and MEMRI.
Hours later, MEMRI deputy director Elliot Zweig sent him the report. While MEMRI hadn’t collected actual messages, its findings included screenshots of Zello users whose avatars featured photos of ISIS’s iconic black flags, and public channels with names like “Islamic State Channel.” One channel called simply “Jihad.”