[Editor’s note: A little more than a decade ago, Voice reporter Camille Dodero took a limo ride with Hunter Moore, an early adopter of revenge-porn trolling. A new Netflix docu-series, The Most Hated Man on the Internet, follows the story of a mother who went after the “self-made Internet villain.” Below are both of Dodero’s original feature stories.]
Hunter Moore is trying to screw a 20-year-old woman on my lap. It’s after 2 in the morning, we’re squashed in a stretch limo with 11 others, stray limbs jumbled onto the vehicle’s floor like a pile of sticks. The California-based revenge-porn profiteer and his rail-thin companion, a Long Island dance teacher, are reclined on our legs, their necks on my knees, as the 26-year-old alternates between making out with her and another blond girl to his right—a 21-year-old from Philly who will later call this “the wildest night of my life.” Across from his best friend, Carlos Jacome, a Colombian-ginger wingman also sandwiched between two girls, Moore playfully pushes the women together so he can kiss them both at the same time. But the dancer is growing jealous, so she cradles his head possessively and coos at them both, “My baby.”
Singular attention can be earned, apparently. “Can we fuck right now?” Moore whispers to her face. “C’mon. Real quick.”
Hunter Moore is the unrepentant founder of Is Anyone Up, a virtual grudge slingshot of a website that gleefully publishes “revenge porn” photos—cell-phone nudes submitted by scorned exes, embittered friends, malicious hackers, and other ne’er-do-well degenerates—posted alongside each unsuspecting subject’s full name, social-media profile, and city of residence. Over the past 16 months, the site has been a source of public humiliation for pop-punk bassists, a Maple Leafs forward, an Ultimate Frisbee champ, an American Idol finalist, and the founder of Dream Water. (“Obviously didn’t make Smart Water,” Moore zinged.) Should you mistake these targets for adhering to a code of heartbroken vigilantism or entitlement schadenfreude, let it be known that the only guides Moore follows are the law and Mark Zuckerberg’s principle that the greatest online power is the people you know. “At the end of the day, people just want to see their friends fucking naked,” he offers. Now he posts nude schoolteachers, young mothers, American military members, little people, and, recently, a disabled woman in a wheelchair. It’s worth noting Moore often advertises with the tagline “Pure Evil.”
Naturally, Moore has spawned a legion of enemies. After posting images of the daughter of a major GOP campaign donor, strangers tried to climb over his home fence. Last spring, Bamboozle organizers threatened to arrest him if he stepped on festival grounds. In July, a San Francisco–area woman stabbed the Sacramento native in the shoulder with a pen, a wound that required surgery and left a caterpillar-size scar. Facebook instituted a universal ban on the site; Moore enjoys telling everyone that he responded with a picture of his dick. Anonymous has targeted his site, as have other savvy hackers; he now pays a security firm five grand a month to ward them off. And there is a steady stream of death threats, which has Moore mulling over moving back to New York, where he has lived in two separate spells. He could really use a doorman. “I’m scared I’m going to get fucking murdered in my sleep if someone finds out where I live.”
Although Moore isn’t giving out his home address or cell-phone number, which he has changed every month this year, the self-employed entrepreneur isn’t hiding. The opposite, actually: Moore travels across the country DJ’ing clubs, widely promoting his personal appearances. This is partly because he insists he’s a straw man. “People want to point the finger at me, but I didn’t fucking raid your house and take your phone,” he says. “I don’t see how I’m supposed to be sorry.” But more so, it’s because he’s constantly playing chicken. Threaten a lawsuit, and Moore will post your threat. Cry about the emotional distress he has abetted, and he will belittle your concern. “After a couple of days, literally, nobody gives a fuck,” he says. “We’ve all masturbated to you or laughed at you, and it’s done. It can’t get any worse.” Confront him for posting your nudes on Anderson Cooper’s show, and he will just repost your boobs the following day with the headline, “The Girl Who Confronted Me on the Anderson Cooper Show.”
This behavior is classic trolling, which has drawn him an online army of adoring defenders. Moore has 35,000 Twitter followers; his site has more than 91,000. One woman named her child after him. Three things fangirls have tweeted at him in the past week: “If you had aids, id still fuck you just to say i have aids and that i got aids from you”; “One day I’m going to have Hunter Moore tattooed on my stomach with an arrow pointing down that says ‘God Was Here'”; “I wonder how many girls have tried to steal @Huntermoore used condoms.”
“We all want to be him,” insisted Charlie Rittenhouse, a 25-year-old fanboy acquaintance from Islip, Long Island, minutes before we all climbed into the limo hailed outside Moore’s Webster Hall birthday party. “We all fucking do.”
Internet, this is what you’ve created.
Is Anyone Up is a NSFW blog devoted to capitalizing on the vindictive potential of smartphone technology. Five days a week, the 16-month-old site updates with 20 to 30 individual posts of nude 18- to 30-year-olds who, however foolishly, never intended their sexting images for public consumption. Most of these amateur self-portraits are posed with shower curtains or linen-cluttered backdrops. Many include recognizable faces. All appear beside screenshots of their Facebook or Twitter accounts, with their full names, cities, and states blasted in Google-searchable headlines. Every naked body is actively subject to ridicule, both by commenters and Moore, who chooses animated-GIF “reaction shots” to accompany each nude. For example, a dark-haired vamp is rewarded with Jersey Shore’s Vinny and Pauly D eyeing each other over milkshakes on a pixelated loop; a small male endowment incurs Jerry Lewis silently guffawing again and again.
Adding insult to injury is the site’s dominant idiom. The archetypal submission is perhaps best exemplified by a February 2012 post of a young woman from Orlando, Florida, who had photographed herself with one breast exposed, tugging her bottoms provocatively low to reveal the plea “I’m Sorry Felix” written on her left hip, flanked by pointy red-Sharpied hearts. Felix apparently did not accept the apology.
Moore was passed photos of Passion Pit’s bassist showing off his schlong and posted them. Immediately, representatives from Columbia Records, the synth-pop band’s Sony subsidiary label, got involved and threatened to sue.
This spirit of retaliation is dutifully pumped into the site’s unofficial anthem, “Revenge Porn!” an electronica track from goth-rainbow duo Blood on the Dance Floor. “Cheated on me and broke my heart/Gonna show the world your private parts,” sasses BOTDF co-frontman Jayy von Monroe over a gym-playlist house beat. The manic chorus twists the knife. “You always said you’d die to be fay-mous/You never thought it’d be because of your ayy-nus.” This three-month-old single, which mentions Moore by name, is available on iTunes.
The porn site also directly inspired Eskimo Callboy’s “Is Anyone Up,” a skank-metal grave-rave hybrid by six German guys with an amusingly simple translation of the blog’s fundamental purpose (“Your pussy/Your boobies/On the World Wide Web”), as well as a Forget Me in Vegas pop-punk tune by the same name, the Warped Tour’s pip-squeaky answer to Rollins Band’s “Liar.” It’s an obviously cynical synergy. For one, the demographically young site skews toward a similar under-35 audience who, according to online analytics tool Alexa, tends “to consist of childless men browsing from home who have no postgraduate education“ and ranges from 150,000 unique visitors on a Sunday to 240,000 on a good weekday, according to Moore. (Traffic-analysis monitor compete.com has the January 2012 audience peaking around 188,000.) For two, the site first built its name by publishing band-dude dong shots; eventually opportunistic alt-musician types started self-submitting nudes, in the hopes of publicizing their bands.
The first breakthrough took place on February 2, 2011, back when the site had only 7,000 Twitter followers, Moore published shirtless nudes of Zack Merrick, bassist for the Baltimore pop-punk band All Time Low, whose name immediately became a Twitter trending topic. “That pretty much sealed the deal for me as far as nudes,” Moore recalls now. “People were going to come to my site now for that shit.” The same month, Moore was passed photos of Passion Pit’s bassist showing off his schlong and posted them. Immediately, representatives from Columbia Records, the synth-pop band’s Sony subsidiary label, got involved and threatened to sue.
Such corporate muscle was initially intimidating. “When I first started—probably about six months in—I would get scared,” Moore admits. “I didn’t know the law and didn’t really know anything.” For a while, he honored removal requests. “At first, I was just throwing Hail Marys out there. Then I got fucking wise. I found out the laws, and I was like, ‘Fuck you.’ I put creepy Passion Pit guy right back up.”
As he soon discovered, Moore isn’t legally held responsible for the user-submitted content to his site, thanks to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996, a federal law that protects Web hosts against legal claims arising from hosting third-party information, including libel or invasion of privacy. (“No provider or user of an interactive-computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider,” reads the CDA’s actual text.) It’s this same powerful protection that prevents website owners from the venom posted to their comments sections and Facebook from being held culpable for users’ words. The person lawfully responsible for possible offenses like, say, defamation of character or slander is the party who submits the photos to Moore’s site—the jilted ex, the vendetta-settling former friend, Felix.
Is Anyone Up is also shielded from third-party copyright violations by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act’s Section 512. This means that Moore isn’t directly responsible if an external user—even one who’s obtained photos through a possibly criminal act like hacking—has submitted material to his site that belongs to someone else. But, according to Electronic Frontier Foundation staff attorney Mitch Stoltz, to keep this legal protection, Moore must “honor formal requests from the copyright owner to take the material down.” Moore brags he doesn’t, even though he gets “about 50” DMCA requests a day. “I get the one e-mail from them, and all I reply back with is ‘LOL,’ and then I never hear back from them again.” (Assuming he’s telling the truth, this negligence could eventually contribute to the site’s undoing.)
Although these two protections allow a lot of freedom, Moore is understandably careful about underage content. He compares an image’s embedded EXIF data, which includes a file-creation date, and cross-references that timeline with the subject’s dates of birth, along with a separate age-verification process. “We Google everything about everybody before we put them up,” he explains. He has access to another additional safeguard. “My uncle is a cop, so I can check how old everybody is and their records and shit.”
Invariably, mistakes are made, especially when the submitter is dementedly conniving enough to alter file data. That’s what Moore says happened last July, when he unknowingly posted underage nudes, and the female subject contacted him “freaking out.” That same day, he pulled down the time-stamp-manipulated photos, acknowledged in a separate post that the error was “my fault,” reported the guy to officials, but as per usual, launched a public retaliation spree by publishing the creepazoid’s e-mail addresses, photograph, full name, and cell-phone number. To this day, a screenshot thumbnail of that guy’s Facebook profile sits on Is Anyone Up’s submission form alongside the warning “He submitted underage content, will you be replacing him here?”
Such cautionary tales don’t stop approval-seeking minors from self-submitting. “I have little girls e-mail me naked pictures of themselves like, ‘I hope you like me,'” Moore says. “It’s really bad.” It’s the one area in which Moore seems to show a glimmer of personal responsibility. He talks about establishing a nonprofit that would educate minors about the potential consequences of underage sexting. “Some of them think it’s funny to put them on my site. They don’t realize: Not only are you fucking over that girl, you’re fucking over your life, too. You’re going to be a sex offender for the next 10 years when I report it—not only are you fucked, your whole life is fucked. That’s my main goal, but people don’t want to hear about that stuff.”
Then again, the noise drowning out that stuff might be the squealing minors proudly claiming Is Anyone Up as an ambition. For example, an arbitrary search for the site’s Twitter handle and the number 18 brings up “i hope your [sic] still there so when i turn 18 i can self submit myself :]” (March 25) and “Can’t wait til I’m 18 so I can happily self submit to @is_anyone_up and hopefully one day fuck @Huntermoore” (March 27). It gets soul-scorchingly redundant from there.
Without New York City, none of this would have ever happened.
“Oh, I love that shit,” he says. Laughing. “I love it.” I ask about this on two separate conversations two weeks apart just to be sure, and his response is remarkably consistent. “To be perfectly honest, I think it’s fucking awesome that people want to be on my site when they turn 18.” The underage ambition to be nude on his site is cool, just not the unlawful execution. “It’s kind of disgusting but amazing at the same time.” They probably don’t even mean it, he contends. “It’s the Internet,” he dismisses. What about in real life? “If some fucking 14-year-old ran up to me off the playground and was like, ‘I can’t wait to be on your site,’ I’d be like, ‘All right, I think it’s time to shut down the site.’ Yeah, wait, are 14-year-olds even on playgrounds? Anyway, whatever.”
Here’s what it’s like to be a 19-year-old college sophomore and learn your lacy pink panties are displayed worldwide on Is Anyone Up. You open Twitter one afternoon while doing homework, check your reply column, and—oh, no!—instantly start to cry. Your iPhone rings. Friends are on the line, using their soft, concerned voices. Some kid you sorta know from Poughkeepsie, whose band was recently signed, tweets at you, “Nice tits!” which is a megaphone to mutual friends that you’re naked on the Internet. Your Facebook account turns into an unwelcome string of gross notes from pervy zombie mouth-breathers and douche bags you hated in high school. By the next morning, you have 600-plus friend requests, 400 brand-new Twitter followers, and countless raunchy messages concerning your body parts.
At least that’s more or less how Kristen, who asked to have her name changed in this story, remembers the immediate aftermath. One Thursday, the New Paltz student came home from soccer practice to find herself locked out of her online accounts. When she got into her Facebook account again, her chat icon was goading personal information from acquaintances on her friends list—she’d been hacked by a stranger. Three hours later, her name was a headline on Is Anyone Up.
Four weeks after the post, we meet up at a tiny Midtown Starbucks. “What bothered me the most was the fact that a complete stranger was the person who submitted them,” she says, flattening a tear on her bottom left eyelid. Pink nails, pierced nostril, she’s a cute blonde in town from upstate for half the day, helping her mom with a conference; she’s terrified of her parents finding out, and the excuse for our surreptitious conversation is shoe shopping. The bright side: The photos on the website are tasteful posterior shots and one dreamy black-and-white semi-nude torso. Kristen swears the faceless photos had never been sent. Saved in her e-mail, they were intended to be gifts for the long-distance “kid who I have been seeing, who I’ve been in love with on and off for years.” Unfortunately, few people believed her that a hacker had excavated the nudes, including him. “He didn’t want to talk with me anymore.”
At least they weren’t worse. “All my friends were like, at least you’re not the girl shoving fruits and vegetables in places they shouldn’t be,” she says, feigning comfort. “Everyone was like, ‘They’re very artistic!’ I’m like, ‘Oh. My. God.’
Kristen could’ve, in theory, subpoenaed the IP address of the person who submitted her photos, or been the one to test in court how far the DMCA shield extends to Moore’s site. “My friends told me, ‘You’d be the one who saved everybody!'” she says. Money would be one obstacle, but the unwanted attention would be another. “Then I’d be the girl sitting up there with Hunter on Anderson Cooper. And no.”
Without New York City, none of this would have ever happened.
Four years ago, Hunter Moore moved from California to Brooklyn, to take a cheap Williamsburg room on Grand and Lorimer. “I lived right here,” he announces as we crawl past by his old address in a black cab heading to Manhattan, during rush hour on his birthday. Jacome is seated between us; until now, they’d been debating who would be top and bottom if they were gay lovers. “I used to come here, and my dinner would be—wait—oh, no, right there—and I would get Sour Patch Kids and some fucking seltzer water, and that was my dinner. That’s how poor I was.”
If you needed to build a biographical composite of a sketchy stereotype, you could do worse than Moore’s oft-repeated résumé of worldly positions: high school dropout; hairstylist for a fetish-porn site (“All updos and shit—Renaissance-themed stuff”); guy who offers up “weird shit I’ll never tell” to pay his phone bill; owner of a Sacramento-based sex-party company; winner of a $250,000 retail-store sexual-harassment case that allowed him to loaf around Australia until he pissed away all but $13,000 and came back to the States. When Moore returned from Sydney, an ex-friend—aren’t they all in his case—was staying with a woman named Sara, “this girl I was fucking in love with. She was, like, this model. I never thought I’d fucking meet her.” His friend, now ex, demanded he visit. “She knew I was fucking obsessed with this chick. I literally got on a plane, flew from Sydney to San Francisco, and then hung out in Phoenix, and then to New York. Just to fucking see this chick.” For a guy who likes to say that having sex with girls is easy, but getting them to leave takes skill, this seems out of character. “Remember I was obsessed with her, dude?”
Jacome looks over. “He really liked her a lot.”
“We ended up falling in love with each other,” Moore admits. A modeling-agency contact had access to a Manhattan penthouse, where they lived for seven or eight months. Is Anyone Up started when, soon after he’d broken up with Sara, he started seeing a married girl who had sent him nudes. His friends wanted to see the pictures, his iChat wouldn’t work, and the chronic insomniac already owned the domain Is Anyone Up, so he posted them there. “It wasn’t what it is today,” he says. “It’s evolved into something very scary.” Would that have happened if he hadn’t broken up with Sara then? “Maybe not if I was still with Sara because I was just so obsessed with her.”
“I think she had an important part,” Jacome says. “You know how many people say, ‘Don’t ever stop doing what you want to do because of somebody else?’ He’s always been like, ‘Be who you want!'” This one was different. “At some point, you got caught up with her, and then you got heartbroken. After that happened, you were like: ‘Fuck it. I’m gonna do me for the rest of my life now.'”
“I dunno,” Moore says blankly. “To get like me, you have to have your heart ripped out and shit on.” He likes to recycle this quote. “It’s a luxury for me.” Whoever it was—a teenage love named Rachel, Sara—he’s grateful, he brags. “It takes something away from the equation. I can focus on my work, and I know where I want to get, and I don’t have to follow some rules of a relationship or somebody nagging me. All I gotta do is fucking get my work done, make money, go out the next night, fuck somebody, repeat.”
Is Anyone Up’s most consistently popular features are Moore’s first-person “stories.” Focused on graphic sex escapades, they’re physically explicit to the point of gagging disgust, reveling in a post-fratire misogyny that makes Bukowski seem like a pockmarked Emily Dickinson. For example, Hunter Moore on female eating: “Whenever I walk into a girls house and notice a half eaten pizza on the stove and in my head I’m like this girl better have a brother or a dog.” Hunter Moore on wooing: “I have a penis, and i tell her to add me on Facebook, i notice her breasts are very large in size and my penis likes that so i like her.” Hunter Moore’s indelicate infinitive for sex with a woman: “to bang the guts out.” Hunter Moore on threesomes: “Only two people really wanna fuck each other and one is a lingerer.” That story’s title is also a spoiler: “When I Realized I Like Butthole.”
“Everyone compares my stories to Tucker Max,” Moore says. “That guy is a fucking liar.” Moore thinks his great genius is his willingness to live the role of a real revenge-porn protagonist. “I’m actually fucking people over. It’s real people who you can actually basically reach, and be in contact with, and be like, ‘Oh, my God, Hunter rubbed his scabies dick on your face, ha ha ha ha.'” (Like I said, gagging disgust.) “I just think that I can brand ‘Hunter Moore.’ That’s pretty much what the whole point of Is Anyone Up was: me. But I didn’t have an audience, so I had to post naked pictures to get that audience. Now with my stories, I am slowly branding me.” Branding me by fucking you. And you. And you.
One of the great unsolved mysteries to Moore’s abiding sexual popularity: Why would any woman who has read this megaslut critiquing a former conquest’s vaginal smell on the Internet, with names and faces and links, want to subject herself to that? Hooking up with the Situation on Jersey Shore might be one way to broadcast your loss of self-respect and boost your popularity at the same time so that you might, perhaps, get recognized in Atlantic City. But screwing a dude who posts his partners’ dirty underwear?
“People will do anything for the extra couple followers on Twitter,” Moore says. “Honestly, what other fucking reason? You know who I am. You know what I do. It’s been a little over a year now of me fucking doing this. It’s fucking weird. I’m going to Portland in a few days. And I have about 25 different threesomes with other girls who want me to take pictures of them while having sex with me.” He has been arranging some of these on Twitter; you can go see for yourself. “I’m going to make a couple thousand dollars off these girls. All I see is dollar signs.” He sees dollar signs in the page views he’ll get by writing about these situations, using their real names and actual photos and describing their scents, and that will convert to ad revenue in some arbitrary account. “The girls don’t give a fuck because they’re kind of seeing dollar signs—or cool factor online. The more people you have following you or subscribed to you on Facebook or Tumblr, people are going to think you’re cooler.”
“I don’t want to get famous for people killing themselves,” Moore says.
Some of Hunter Moore’s bullshit is a pose, some of it’s troll bravado, but some of it is a little scarier, an echo of a viral hive mind where individual welfare always trumps common good. I ask what he thinks of cyber-bullying. “People are probably going to want to fucking kill me after I say this. But if you are quote-unquote being cyber-bullied, you should just fucking kill yourself.” He continues: “My site is different. If you’re posted, and people are like, ‘You’re fat; kill yourself,’ I can understand why people are hurting themselves over it, which I hope to God never happens. But these kids who have never even been posted on my site, who are getting called a ‘faggot’ from a couple bullies at school? They’re just weak-minded people. The shit I went through? Fucking 10,000 times worse than these fucking kids—the kid who made that video who went viral?”—he’s talking about Jamey Rodemeyer, the 14-year-old Lady Gaga fan from Buffalo who made an It Gets Better video but then took his own life—”Are you fucking kidding me? He’s, like, a good-looking kid. Who got called a fag every day? There’s something wrong, I feel.”
I ask what he went through that was so much worse. “Dude, I got jumped all the time,” he says. “I got made fun of all the time. For me, I got made fun of for my nose forever. I have a very ethnic nose. You know what I fucking did? I don’t give a fuck, I still got my dick sucked with it. But I hated my nose. I felt insecure about my nose. And all it did was make me want to be even better-looking. So I made a bunch of money, and I got my nose done.”
Hunter Moore, the guy who will insult your vagina in front of the world, got a nose job.
“I do not want anybody to ever be hurt by my site—physically,” he says. “I don’t give a fuck about emotionally. Deal with it. Obviously, I’d get a ton of heat for it. But—I’m gonna sound like the most evil motherfucker—let’s be real for a second: If somebody killed themselves over that? Do you know how much money I’d make? At the end of the day, I do not want anybody to hurt themselves. But if they do? Thank you for the money.” I ask him to clarify. He adds that he’d remove the content or “do whatever I could to help the situation.” By money, does he mean by traffic or because he’d be famous and then, no matter what happened, cash in on that fame? It’s all very short-sighted. “The more traffic I’d have that day, I’m going to get paid for. So if someone fucking killed themselves? Do you know how much hate I’d get? All the Googling, all the redirects, all, like, the press”—here he sounds like he’s stifling a yawn; it is morning—”I’d get paid for, for that day. And whatever.”
There’s now a cyber-bullying bill inspired by Jamey Rodemeyer in the New York State House. Specific language about “disseminating embarrassing or sexually explicit photographs, either actual or modified” is included, though the legislation only pertains to minors. “I don’t want to get famous for people killing themselves,” Moore says. “Wish I didn’t attach Hunter Moore to the site, to be honest with you.” Yet the following week, Moore let ABC’s Nightline come to his house.
Increased national attention may very soon push policymakers’ to decide that online harassment isn’t an issue limited to children. Hunter Moore could very easily be a catalyst for curtailing online freedoms. “Anybody who looks at [Is Anyone Up] site goes, ‘There’s no way that this can exist,’ and yet it does,” says California-based intellectual property lawyer Denise Howell, who co-hosts the podcast This Week in Law. “Sites like this may be the trigger point for more sweeping legislation that comes in and says, ‘Yes, we want immunity for site holders—but there is a point at which you cross the line.'”
The blond girl in the limo from Philly—she ended up the main character in “The Moment I Almost Went Gay,” a Hunter Moore story about vaginal cleanliness. Another girl from that night was a casualty; Moore posted her dirty underwear. The dancer he tried to fuck on my lap did naked backflips at the after-party and then sobbed when Moore told her he has a girlfriend of three years, which he does. (They don’t have sex.)
The night after the birthday limo ride, Moore beat up Jacome. The next day, Moore posted a photo of his swollen hand to Twitter. After five years, they’re not friends anymore. Alan, Moore’s 60-pound cat, has assumed Jacome’s role.
[The original post can be found here.]
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.”
“The hacker did not nab credit card information. He or she seemed to have only one goal: to steal images for Is Anyone Up?”
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.”
The Monday after his site shut down, Moore appeared as a guest on Dr. Drew’s HLN show. That’s when things got even weirder.
Charlotte Laws, the mother of a 24-year-old California-based actress whose naked body had appeared in January on Is Anyone Up, confronted Moore on the show. Laws told Dr. Drew that her daughter had taken nude self-portraits in her room with her cell phone, then e-mailed them to herself to store the images on her computer. The pictures had been in her e-mail account for months when her daughter was “criminally hacked.” Within days, the photos turned up on Moore’s site. Laws described it as a case of “cyber rape,” a term that Moore later mocked.
“Your daughter said she was hacked, correct?” Moore asked Laws over a split-screen. “Usually people who are embarrassed, who make mistakes, usually try and fall back on something else. I’m sure she sent the pictures to a million different guys and just ended up on my site, just like everybody else.” In other words: You’re in denial, and your daughter is lying.
Moore’s young fans mercilessly taunted Laws on Twitter and Tumblr. “The fact that @CharlotteLaws actually thinks her daughter took a nude picture just to send to HERSELF?” typed @KateyCanFlyy. “No wonder she was CYBER RAPED lol.” @NewYiddySports congratulated Moore on his prime-time guest spot but critiqued, “You should have referenced A.Weiner when the mom cried hacking.” They called her every name in the book and created animated GIFs of her face.
Even Moore, who had feigned an apology on camera, joined the online attack. “The cyber rape mom from dr. Phill [sic]”—wrong TV therapist, same difference —“made up the whole story,” he tweeted. “Real life troll.”
But Laws stood by her story, explaining on her personal blog that after her daughter’s photos were posted, she’d embarked on her own offline investigation. “I randomly chose 25 individuals who had been uploaded onto the site within a 14-day period,’” she recounted. “My findings were astonishing: A full 40 percent of the victims I located had been hacked only days before their photos were loaded onto the site. In most cases, the scam began through Facebook and ended when the thief gained access to the victim’s e-mail account. The hacker did not nab credit card information. He or she seemed to have only one goal: to steal images for Is Anyone Up?”
No one believed Kristen, the 19-year-old college sophomore who appeared in our original Hunter Moore profile under the same pseudonym, when she said she had also been the victim of that kind of attack. On Thursday, February 23, the Long Island native came home from soccer practice to discover she had been locked out of her online accounts. When she got into her Facebook account again, her chat icon was talking with someone she barely knew on her friend list, a New York DJ named Tanner Caldwell.
According to a screen grab of their chat, her avatar had asked for Caldwell’s phone number, with an urgency emphasized with 12 question marks, two exclamation points, and a photo of an adorable girl. He provided his number, but demanded to know why. “My Gmail needs to be reset, but I lost my phone,” her icon offered, “I think I just sent my verification code or whatever to your phone, lol, can you check to see if you just got a text, please?”
“It’s the same thing as Scarlett Johansson getting hacked. It always comes back on the hacker.
Caldwell was immediately suspicious. After some hesitant back-and-forth, he typed, “This seems mad fishy,” adding, “out of your 2,700 friends, you don’t know someone closer to you to send your verification code to?” The response was masterfully played. “I don’t know, you were on my top chat and cute, lol.”
He asked what she was doing Friday; she flirted back while begging for the code. Eventually, he gave it up, and she sent back a smiley face. Within minutes, he realized he’d been locked out of his e-mail. Then it occurred to him that the access code he’d just sent her icon was his own.
The same day they were hacked, Kristen’s nudes showed up on Is Anyone Up, photos she swears to this day were never sent to anybody. (They were tasteful self portraits taken in the hopes that, when the time was right, they’d be gifts to a long-distance paramour who stopped talking with her once the photos showed up on Moore’s site.) The only thing she had in her defense was an e-mail address that she can’t dislodge from her Hotmail account to this day: email@example.com.
Caldwell confirms that firstname.lastname@example.org was his infiltrator’s address, too. “It was definitely the same guy,” he says.
Is it really so easy to hack a Gmail account? See for yourself: Go to the Gmail login screen and click on the frequently ignored link underneath the sign-in menu, “Can’t access your account?” Three options appear; choose “I forgot my password.” Type in a Gmail address—any active Gmail address—and if there’s a phone number associated with the account, you’re given three more options, one of which is “Get a verification code on my phone.” You don’t even need to know the phone number. Just hit “continue” and an unrelated six-digit code will appear in a text to the account owner’s phone. Type in that verification code—a number easily obtained by a masquerading e-impostor—and you’re in. The first thing you’re prompted to do is immediately change your password, thereby blocking out the original owner.
In other words, if a hacker knows only your Gmail address and can figure out how to access your phone, he’s already most of the way into your shit.
That’s what happened to a twentysomething woman from the Northern California we’ll call Tanya, who has never met or spoken with Kristen. Over Facebook chat, a panicked friend typed that she’d lost her phone and asked Tanya for help. Tanya reflexively sent her e-mail address and phone number, and almost immediately, she got an alert that the password on her Yahoo account had been changed. She was momentarily confused. When she finally fought back into the account, her profile information was replaced with an e-mail address: email@example.com.
That was January 7, 2012. “Two days later around midnight, I got weird messages from people, and I ignored them,” Tanya recalls over the phone. “When I woke up the next morning, I had over 30 phone calls from people and over 400 friend requests from Facebook, and I had no idea what was going on.” She’d been posted to Is Anyone Up, with her name, hometown, face—and someone else’s nude body. Tanya had a shock of recognition: The photos of her breasts were actually those of her friend, pictures Tanya had taken during an exercising spell to help visually track her process. “When I actually looked at my e-mail, I didn’t even remember having those.”
Tanya is not the sort of person who takes nudes. She is extremely modest—and this was one of the most emotionally damaging scenarios she could imagine. “I didn’t even leave my house for a week.” When she finally gathered the courage to do an errand, something awful happened. “I went to Taco Bell, and someone came up to me and was like, ‘Oh, I’ve seen you naked.’”
Tanya took no solace in the fact that the site’s characteristically crude comments were flattering. (“Does this girl have any flaws?” was a stark contrast to the usual “Jesus, someone call Greenpeace and get her back in the water.”) The fact that it wasn’t her body didn’t make it better; in some ways, the misunderstanding made the situation feel worse. She tried to get the photos down by e-mailing the site to no avail. Eventually, she started talking with other women who had been posted and discovered she wasn’t the only one. “Everyone I talked with, we were all hacked by Gary Jones.”
More than a month later, Tanya wrote to Jones and said that she knew he had hacked other people for the same reason.
On Monday, February 20, at 12:52 p.m., Tanya wrote, in part: “Do you know how much damage you are doing to people. . . . I have a question why?”
Almost four hours later, she got a reply.
All I can say is I’m sorry. Really. If it makes you feel better, I did nothing other then look at your pictures. Nothing financial or medical, I promise. I truly wish there was something I could do to make it up to you. I’m having a hard time, too. Please feel better and know that nothing else will come from this.
A hacker with a conscience. Also, a hacker who wasn’t denying anything. A few hours later, Tanya wrote: “You and Hunter are invading my privacy. . . . I’m sorry, but I don’t get how you can be having a hard time. ”
He wrote back:
Actually, I just got my 3rd DUI and lost my job last week. . . . I’m 6 days sober. But I get it, that was my choice as opposed to you who did nothing wrong. If it’s any comfort, you are absolutely beautiful, and that gives you a leg up on almost every other woman. Hopefully, in the next month, it will fade away, and you’ll feel happy again. Want me to send your parents an e-mail for you explaining it to them?
That’s the last message in the thread.
“Gary Jones,” as it turns out, has been at this for a while. Google “firstname.lastname@example.org,” and three anonymous forum posts—two from March 2011 and one from December 9, 2011—single out the address. “I recently got my e-mail password stolen from another account,” reads a panicked message from March 15, 2011. “The person who has my account is email@example.com.”
That same month, an Australian woman named Danni Suriano alerted her Facebook friends that she’d been hacked in a frantic status update. (“HACKER!!! ON MY PROFILE RIGHT NOW!! do not tell him anything about your contact info!! firstname.lastname@example.org.”) On October 18, 2011, Suriano was posted on Is Anyone Up. (She didn’t respond to our request for comment.)
“Gary Jones” has a Facebook profile; it doesn’t mention his interest in nude photos. Instead, the page identifies him as a 32-year-old who hails from Belize, lives in Australia, and works for the plus-size agency BELLA Model Management. (Reached by e-mail, the director of BELLA Model Management told the Voice, “We don’t have a Gary here.”) The accompanying photo shows him as a beefy bodybuilder with a bad dragon tattoo, sunglasses on his head, and cartoon-hyena smile.
It’s actually a circa-2008 Wikipedia image of Matthew Rush, a gay-porn megastar known for such titles as Splash Shots III and “the first 3-D gay porn feature film,” Whorrey Potter and the Sorcerer’s Balls. (Rush plays Voldemorecock—it’s available on Blu-ray.) Rush’s birth name is Gregory Grove, not Gary Jones (Reached by e-mail, Grove said, “I have no idea who this person is.”)
I e-mailed email@example.com, told him I’d heard a lot about him, and asked if he’d be willing to talk with me, even anonymously. There has been no response.
Hunter Moore never denied to reporters that Is Anyone Up received hacker submissions while it was active. “I’m sure there have been times that people have been hacked and ended up on the site,” he told The Daily Beast in March. “But as far as Hunter Moore doing the hacking, that hasn’t happened.”
By April 19, the same day isanyoneup.com morphed into a bullyville.com ad, Moore was more definitive about the connection. “I’ve had tons of hackers give me shit,” he told me over the phone, insisting that Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996, the same federal law that has shielded his site from prosecution all along, absolves him of legal responsibility. (Legal experts, however, tell us that isn’t the case.) “It’s the same thing as Scarlett Johansson getting hacked. It always comes back on the hacker. I’m not gonna lie. I’ve paid people for content. I don’t give a fuck. You can say that. If I’ve paid for content, they have to submit the same [way] as the user. It would all fall back on the user.” Scarlett Johansson’s hacker, Chris Chaney, faces 60 years in prison and $2.25 million in fines.
That said, even if Moore’s money somehow found its way to a hacker, he insists he’s not responsible. “If I paid for content, it wouldn’t matter because they submitted it. It wouldn’t matter. It would be like me leaving a fucking $100 bill on the sidewalk and somebody coming and picking that up and fucking throwing a picture on my lawn—it would be the same exact thing. It still comes back on that person who walked by my driveway.”
One provision of Moore’s deal with isanyoneup.com’s new owners, CheaterVille Inc., is that the business is not responsible for anything previously posted on the domain or its affiliated servers. “We bought the URL,” says CheaterVille’s James McGibney. “I do not own the content—I have nothing to do with it.” If there are legal issues with anything that did appear on Moore’s site, McGibney confirms that his company is not responsible. “Part of the contract is he’s 100 percent liable for it. It’s clearly outlined in the agreement. I had lawyers watching lawyers on this deal.”
Acknowledging that he and his lawyer had been fielding requests from the FBI throughout the site’s existence—something Moore consistently discussed with me while the site was still active—Moore continued to defend himself: “We’re going to work with every agency that we have pending investigations with. Really, [shutting down the site] comes down to never having to deal with this question, or anything like it, ever fucking again.”
We were having the conversation on the day his site had been taken down. “No, I don’t have hackers,” he said. “I’m half-retarded. Where would I find hackers? It’s not like I posted on a message board, ‘Friendly hackers, hey, can you get me nude pictures?’ It doesn’t work like that.”
Moore later demanded to know where I had heard that the FBI was looking into him, but I didn’t tell him.
He didn’t react well. “I will literally fucking buy a first-class fucking plane ticket right now, eat an amazing meal, buy a gun in New York, and fucking kill whoever said that. I’m that pissed over it. I’m actually mad right now.”
Moore is apparently not used to his own privacy being violated.
[The original post can be found here.]
– • –
NOTE: The advertising disclaimer below does not apply to this article, nor any originating from the Village Voice editorial department, which does not accept paid links.
Advertising disclosure: We may receive compensation for some of the links in our stories. Thank you for supporting the Village Voice and our advertisers.