By Jared Chausow
By Katie Toth
By Elizabeth Flock
By Albert Samaha
By Anna Merlan
By Jon Campbell
By Jon Campbell
By Albert Samaha
Hunter Moore said he would set fire to the Voice's office if I wrote this. Actually, the 26-year-old's exact words were, "Honestly, I will be fucking furious, and I will burn down fucking The Village Voice headquarters if you fucking write anything saying I have an FBI investigation."
Some background: Hunter Moore is a self-made Internet villain. For more than a year, the Sacramento native published nude cell-phone photos of 18- to 30-year-olds, usually against their will, on his blog Is Anyone Up. Some of the people posted were publicly notable: pop-punk bassists, an Ultimate Frisbee champ, an American Idol finalist, the founder of Dream Water, Twilight star Kiowa Gordon. The majority of them were not: a Taco Bell employee from Orlando; a wheelchair-bound St. Louis community-college student; a high school English teacher in Hamilton City, California. What made these online betrayals even more vindictive was that they appeared alongside the unwitting model's full name, social-media profile, and city of residence—private citizens in vulnerably explicit positions, just a Google search away from friends, enemies, parents, employers.
Just as troubling was that publishing these nudes was a legal act. Is Anyone Up branded itself as a "revenge porn" site, encouraging angry exes to send, anonymously, their former partners' nudes. Many people did. So the breasts, penises, and asses on Hunter Moore's site were, the story went, supplied by avenging cuckolds, embittered former friends, and other people with scores to settle. Because this content came from third-party users, Moore wasn't legally held responsible, thanks to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996, the same powerful shield that prevents Facebook (or the Voice, for that matter) from being sued for what users post.
Is Anyone Up quickly became a lurker's paradise, a life-ruiner, and a public-shame catalog. As the site's popularity spiked, Hunter Moore became a cult of personality, the anti–Mark Zuckerberg, a polarizing figure the BBC called "the Net's most hated man." He received countless death threats, cease-and-desist letters, and a Facebook ban. Last summer, a San Francisco woman he'd posted stabbed him in the shoulder. Infinitely quotable and ruthlessly unapologetic, Moore also drew an army of online supporters, kids who called him a devious genius, professed their love for him, and wanted to have sex with him, which he made a sport of publicly. Anderson Cooper tapped Moore as a guest, a Nightline crew came to his house, and I wrote a cover profile about him for this newspaper.
But along the way, as more unsuspecting subjects ended up on Is Anyone Up, more of them claimed that they'd been hacked—that someone had actually gained access to their e-mail accounts and stolen their images, which had not, in fact, been previously sent to people who later submitted them for publication after relationships soured.
Naturally, this excuse sounded flimsy, if not preposterous. "Everybody can claim they're getting hacked," Moore told me in April. "That's the easiest way to fucking get out of it—'Oh, I fucking shoved my finger in my asshole, and I sent it to this dude who looked hella cute and had a face tattoo on Twitter. And I'm gonna say I got hacked.' Let's be real, you're a fucking whore, and you just met the dude, and you thought he was cute."
That conversation happened the same day as a stunning development: Moore suddenly sold his domain to an anti-bullying site, bullyville.com, and effectively shut down Is Anyone Up on April 19. "I'm fucking sick of looking at little kids naked, and I'm sick of my fucking site. I'm sick of fucking people calling me a 'faggot' and telling me to kill myself," he told me. "I'm tired of fucking looking out the window and thinking somebody's going to fucking come through and murder me in my sleep." He insisted that his decision to shutter Is Anyone Up had nothing to do with law-enforcement pressure. "Fuck no, I would fucking literally murder somebody right now if I had a fucking gun and [that person] wanted to make those allegations."
The Voice has learned that the FBI's Los Angeles Internet Crime division has been actively investigating Hunter Moore and Is Anyone Up for months, according to four people who say they've been interviewed by the FBI about his now-shuttered site. The case's focus, according to those familiar with the investigation, was Moore's possible connection to a hacker who has repeatedly broken into the inboxes of countless victims, rifled through their attachments, and submitted the accompanying nudes to Is Anyone Up. (A Los Angeles FBI spokesperson would not confirm or deny such an investigation.)
"The FBI has been in contact with me," Moore admitted during the same conversation in which he threatened to burn down the Voice. "I have nothing to hide."
Bullyville.com is a month-old property run by former Marine James McGibney, another controversial website owner whose flagship property, cheaterville.com, asks for people to expose unfaithful scalawags. He also relies on the Communications Decency Act of 1996's protections to run cheaterville.com. "Under no circumstances are any photos, posts, anything that was previously on Is Anyone Up servers ever allowed to be made into a public domain again," he explained about his company's purchase of Moore's domain. "We could do this, and then maybe Hunter starts up another website two months from now and puts all this stuff back up, and we made sure that couldn't happen."