03.13.12

Hunter Moore, Creator of ‘Revenge Porn’ Website Is Anyone Up?, Is the Internet’s Public Enemy No. 1

Hunter Moore is the controversial founder of Is Anyone Up?—a ‘revenge porn’ site that features amateur nude photos, often posted by jilted exes. He’s come under fire from Facebook, has been accused of hacking, and was even stabbed with a pen by an angry subject. Marlow Stern reports.

Hunter Moore, creator of the “revenge porn” website Is Anyone Up?, is creeping me out.

It’s 1 a.m. and we’re at The Studio at Webster Hall—a murky, cellarlike venue in Manhattan’s East Village—for Moore’s 26th-birthday celebration. Electronic music is buzzing from the stage, mixing easily with the sounds of the tattoo parlor in the rear. A quartet of young women in body-hugging dresses undulates to the thumping bass, as Moore’s beady eyes home in on his nubile prey.

“I’ve fucked most of the girls here,” says Moore, extending his heavily tattooed arm towards the pack. “All of these girls are literally 17 years old,” he says, chuckling.  “I might go to jail tonight.”

The website that’s made Moore infamous is called Is Anyone Up? Only 13 months old, it already has 300,000 unique viewers a day, according to Moore, and just north of 188,000 according to Web-traffic analysis service Compete.com. The site operates like a quasi-moderated Internet forum for the broken-hearted. Users—often vengeful exes or bitter friends—anonymously submit nude photos, some of which feature their subjects in lewd acts. Moore, or one of his minions, then uploads the photos and attaches a screengrab of the person’s Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, or Linkedin account as an identifier. An offensive reaction, in the form of a still or animated .gif depicting a pop culture reference or Internet meme, is usually added at the end of a post. Every so often, Moore will share a lurid sex story to accompany the pictures. Moore says he receives 25 submissions on a “bad” day, 250 on a “good” one.

hunter-moore-stern-main
Courtesy of Hunter Moore

Few are safe from Moore’s scorn. His site posts just as many men as women,and also includes the obese, who are branded either “SIF” (Secret Internet Fatty, a popular Web term indicating that the subject used creative angles to make themselves appear thinner) or “Gnargoyle” (denoting ugliness). While the majority of Moore’s subjects are attractive 20-something “scene” kids with tattoos, the occasional middle-aged mom lands on the site and, in one case, a paraplegic. “A girl died in a car accident and these girls got pictures of her from the morgue with her brains falling out,” Moore says. “They wanted me to post the pictures with her nudes. That was pretty disturbing. That’s beyond people pointing and laughing; that’s something you can’t come back from.” He pauses. “I don’t want that on my conscience.”

Is Anyone Up? has also gained a degree of notoriety for featuring many musicians—usually in the metalcore/emo scene—including band members from Brand New, Passion Pit, and Panic at the Disco! After the site posted nude photos of their bassist, Florida-based rock band A Day to Remember cancelled their set at the Bamboozle Festival in May 2011, knowing Moore was in the crowd (the controversy only boosted the site’s traffic, and Moore’s Twitter followers grew from 12,000 to 29,000 in a month). Still, many bands self-submit photos to Is Anyone Up? in order to generate more publicity, or aren’t particularly bothered when others submit them. “It was worth it,” Jordan Hollywood-Oman, drummer for the screamo band A Beautiful Nightmare, told The Daily Beast. “My personal status and the band’s status actually skyrocketed.”

Because his site, by his own admission, ruins lives and costs victims their jobs, Moore has become one of the most reviled men on the Internet—a status he seems to relish. One of the site’s regular features is titled “Daily Hate,” where Moore posts complaints from subjects who’ve appeared on the site. Last year, an angry woman whose picture appeared on Is Anyone Up? confronted Moore at a house party, lodging a Bic pen in his left shoulder and leaving a nasty-looking wound. Moore posted the gruesome aftermath and wrote about the incident, resulting in his biggest traffic day yet—-that is, until he appeared on Anderson Cooper’s talk show in November, when he was confronted by two of his victims.

The biggest shot fired at Moore came from Facebook, which sent him a three-page cease-and-desist letter in December ordering him to remove all Facebook-related screengrabs from the site. Facebook claims Moore’s actions are illegal and in violation of the site’s terms of service, which spell out that users’ information cannot be published without their consent. Facebook also accuses Moore of harrassing its users, and has disabled his personal account.

The way Moore sees it, the Facebook flap is simply more publicity for his site. “I just thought, ‘Cha-ching! You fucking idiots.,’” Moore says with a cackle. “In my opinion, I’ve already won the battle, and that’s why I haven’t heard anything from them since. Then, I sent them a picture of my dick on top of it.” Moore continues, “[Mark Zuckerberg] had Facemash, where he compared women to farm animals. We’re in the same game, basically, and it’s kind of weird he’d go after me.” Facebook did not respond to multiple requests for comment for this story.

Moore compares his job to a coroner’s: “At first he thinks it’s weird, but then he does it every day of his life and it’s just another dead body.”

Moore runs pornography ads on the website to cover the $12,000 monthly server fees, and he says he makes around $3,000 a month off merchandise. That includes T-shirts baring his infamous slogan #NBHNC, which stands for No Butthole, No Care, reflecting Moore’s penchant for the most revealing of photos. “Girls take pictures, but as a pervert I want to see what’s hidden,” he explains. His cult-like fans sometimes swap nude pictures for the T-shirts in a Girls Gone Wild-esque transaction, and some female fans have gone so far as to get tattoos of the #NBHNC slogan. Moore says he puts all profits back into the site.

Moore claims he works 19 hours a day, five days a week managing the site, and he also employs a team of six people, including two age-verification specialists to ensure that everyone pictured is 18 years or older. Moore says the site only uses original photos with EXIF data, which tells, among other things, when the photo was taken. ”I compare that with your date of birth” to determine if the subject is indeed over 18, Moore says. He says that there have been instances when people who appeared on the site turned out to be under age, and that those posts were removed.

While many people whose pictures have appeared on the site have threatened Moore with legal action, no one has yet filed a lawsuit against him. Part of the problem, it seems, is that people don’t want to draw more attention to the incident by pursuing a lawsuit, and many of the people posted on Moore’s site are young and don’t possess the resources to sue. “It takes you $50,000 to get me into court, and people who work at Starbucks don’t make that kind of money,” brags Moore.

Evan Brown is an attorney specializing in technology and intellectual property who has represented two clients who’ve had their photos posted on Is Anyone Up? The attorney sees two areas where the site could run into legal problems: (1) copyright, and (2) harassment or infliction of emotional distress. Since most of the images on the site are self-portraits, Brown says the people in those photos own the copyright. And it’s safe to assume that most of the photos were published without the copyright holder’s permission. The victim could, according to Brown, sue whomever submitted the photos to Is Anyone Up? and most likely be successful.

Still, it’s uncertain whether the site itself would be liable, given that other sites that host user-generated content, like YouTube, are protected by federal law from some copyright suits under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), provided the sites follow the requirements of the DMCA.

As for the issue of harassment, federal law protect website operators from lawsuits over user-submitted content. For example: websites aren’t liable for statements made by users in its comments’section. But there is an exception to the rule: “Courts are not willing to extend that protection to websites if they build the site to become a developer of the content,” says Brown. “Hunter Moore has not concealed the fact that he enjoys ruining lives, and the site makes it a requirement that the victim’s name and information about his or her social media presence [usually Facebook page] be disclosed when pics are being submitted. The site is a machine specially built for reputation-ruining.”

Moore has also been accused of hacking by several people upset to find their photos on his site. “I’ve talked to 25 victims within a 14-day period, and about 40 percent of them were hacked,” says Charlotte Laws, an investigator who helped Facebook deactivate Moore’s page. “Additionally, 12 percent of them were someone else’s head and a different person’s nude body.”

One female in her early 20s who appeared on Moore’s site claims she was hacked. “I was asked a few questions by a random promoter I was ‘friends’ with on Facebook—but didn’t know personally—about what my old Hotmail address was. He then asked me random questions about myself that, in retrospect, could be my ‘security questions,’ and within a second of me talking to this promoter-guy, I got locked out of my Gmail and got locked out of my Hotmail because the passwords were changed.” The young woman, who requested anonymity to avoid being embarrassed by the posting, claims the nude photos that ended up on the site were only sent to a single friend, who swore to her that she didn’t submit them to Is Anyone Up?

“I don’t hack,” Moore says. “I’m sure there have been times that people have been hacked and ended up on the site, but as far as Hunter Moore doing the hacking, that hasn’t happened.”

Hunter Moore isn’t the most imposing of figures. Grungy yet handsome, 6’2” but slim, he sports a black "fauxhawk" hairdo that belies his child-like visage. His arms are covered in tattoos, and he speaks with a bit of a lisp—a remnant, he says, of his California upbringing.

He was born in Woodland, California—a small, predominantly Hispanic town 15 miles outside of Sacramento—and attended Woodland Christian School, which describes itself as a place where, “With Christ as our example, students will learn the power of serving others.” According to Moore, while his mother was “rad,” his military father punished him for the simplest of transgressions. (He claims his parents are actually fans of Is Anyone Up?). Moore was eventually expelled from Woodland Christian for, he says, acting up in class, and he briefly attended public school before dropping out at 13. “I just didn’t think I needed school,” Moore says, adding, “Now I do because I’m kind of retarded.”

Despite his lack of formal education, Moore has a keen business mind and is very Internet-savvy. He started creating businesses at 13, including a lifestyle website and a business called WHS Party Scene, which was a bot for AOL Instant Messenger users that showed what parties were happening in town. He also taught himself Photoshop through a tutorial, and became actively engaged in social networking in order to meet girls.

Moore says that when he was 15, he had his heart broken by his first love, a girl named Rachel, and he traces much of what happened in his life since to that seminal moment. “The only way to get to a point where you have no feelings, you have to have your heart ripped out and shit on,” Moore says. “I hate to use the term ‘heartless,’ but you have to have something traumatic happen to get there.”

Several years later, Moore recalls, he was attacked by a fellow employee while working the cash register at a retail store. “A guy at work hired me thinking I was gay and put his hands down my pants in front of a customer while I was ringing them up at a retail store,” Moore says. “I hit him in the nose and then he threw me against the wall—he was about 300 pounds—and dragged me across the floor. I sued the company.” He pauses. “That’s why lawyers don’t really intimidate me, because I’ve been through the wringer a few times.”

With his settlement money from the sexual harassment suit, which Moore claims totaled $300,000, he bounced around quite a bit, first living in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, then moving back to California and serving as a manager for a band called the Millionaires. He partied and lived the life of a rock star along the way. After spending some time in Australia with a girl he met on MySpace, he arrived back in New York City in 2009 with $150 in his pocket. At this point, Moore claims he was desperate, and engaged in “horrible shit” to pay his bills. When asked if he prostituted himself, he replies, “Basically ... I never let dudes bang me out or anything, but it’s stuff you wouldn’t tell people.”

Moore got a steady job “doing hair at a fetish company,” and by his estimation was pulling down around $60,000 a year. Then, he says, he met a porn star who introduced him to the world of sex parties. He soon began hosting sex parties around New York, catering to middle-aged white businessmen. Moore would advertise the parties on swinger websites, and claims to have earned $100,000 in the first six months.

After an intervention of sorts from his sister, who he says is a missionary, Moore decided to return to the web. He purchased the domain for IsAnyoneUp.com—a status he used to post to his Facebook while suffering from insomnia—and initially intended to use it to review nightlife venues. Then things took a sharp turn. “I was having sex with this girl who was getting engaged to a member of an emo band, and everyone wanted to see her naked,” Moore says. A friend, who worked for Google at the time, encouraged Moore to post the young woman’s photo to Is Anyone Up? so they could all see it. “That was the very first picture,” Moore says. A couple of online forums caught wind of what Moore was doing, and a few days later when he checked the stats he saw that his site had received 14,000 uniques in a single day.

Since then, Moore has managed to burn most of his bridges. But he still has his best friend, Carlos Jacome, a red-haired, tattoo-covered scene kid of Colombian descent who accompanies him on most of his stops. And he says he has had a girlfriend for three and a half years back in California, though they share “an emotional relationship and not a physical one.”

Moore says he feels very little sympathy for those unfortunate enough to wind up on his website. He compares his job to a coroner cutting up corpses. “At first he thinks it’s weird, but then he does it every day of his life and it’s just another dead body,” Moore says.

By 1:30 a.m., the scene at Webster Hall is picking up steam. Moore is whispering into the ear of a tall, red-headed girl with a pierced nose and a lopsided Skrillex haircut as the chorus to “Internet Friends,” a sinister electro tune by the Australian dubstep duo Knife Party, blares in the background: "You blocked me on Facebook/And now you’re going to die."

“We’re best friends with him,” says a petite blonde girl, pointing toward Moore. She is wearing a skintight, low-cut red dress exposing some ample back art, and doesn’t look a day over 16.

After a brief trip to the bathroom, I decide to head for the exit. On my way to the door, I spot the four young women from earlier in the night. They are all grinding against one another, forming some sort of Human Centipede-like structure. As the two middle girls lean in and kiss, Moore approaches the group, grinning from ear to ear.