by Danny Gold
The word “hated” adorns Hunter Moore’s social-media bios. He has drawn the ire of the music industry, young people from all over the United States (as well as Canada, England and Australia), of privacy defenders — and, well, of many, many other people who happen to come across his website, Is Anyone Up?, and find it appalling. The death threats have not fazed him. Nor has the spectre of lawsuits; while many have been threatened, to Moore’s knowledge, not one has been filed.
The stabbing, though; that did get his attention. A young woman, unhappy to have had her pictures posted on his site, ambushed Moore one afternoon in March as he walked to his mailbox. The gash to his shoulder required a trip to the hospital. Moore now no longer posts pictures of anyone from his hometown of San Francisco on his site.
Is Anyone Up? is fairly simple in concept: someone anonymously submits nude photos to Moore through the site’s submission form. Perhaps it’s a jilted ex, or a recent hookup, or a vengeful friend. These days, the site receives many self-submissions as well. Provenance doesn’t matter. Moore uploads those photos and attaches identifying screen-grabs from the person’s Facebook, Tumblr or Twitter accounts — whatever’s available. He sometimes adds a pithy caption and a reaction gif at the end, usually from a television show or meme. And that’s pretty much it. Is Anyone Up? currently receives, Moore said, 30 million page views a month.
Moore has cleared up to $13,000 a month from the site, but that amount fluctuates and nearly all of it is put back into the site. The server bill alone is $8,000 a month. In addition, Moore, who is 25, must also pay his lawyer, a newly hired PR person, a server administrator, and two security specialists, whose primary responsibility is to age-check the submissions. I spoke with Moore at length over the phone several times in the past few weeks. While his conversation is peppered with “dudes” and “motherfuckers,” under all that seeming casualness he is clearly shrewd when it comes to business matters and the Internet. He’s aware he could be capitalizing on advertisements and bringing in a lot more money, but for now he enjoys the freedom that the lack of advertisers gives him.
Moore said he generally spends 12 hours a day, five days a week uploading posts to his site. There are different varieties of posts. One category is “band whores,” which include a list of all members of a band that someone allegedly slept with. There are “gnargoyles,” a term reserved for people Moore deems particularly unattractive. Other classifications include: “would” or “would not” and “gay” or “straight.” When Moore comes across a Facebook profile he likes, a “bounty” goes out for nude photos of that person. “Please get naked” and “just show the shaft” are also used to urge people to self-submit photos. Unlike many co-ed sites out there, Is Anybody Up? features just as many men as women, if not more.
Another of the site’s regular features is “Daily Hate,” outraged correspondence from people who have had their pictures posted without their consent (example — that link, like many others in this story, NSFW). Some letters threaten; others attempt to cajole him into removing the photos. Often times, Moore will post private chats between him and a postee, in which they insult him or agree to send him pictures for his personal use but not for the site. Sometimes he’ll add their pictures.
The bigger the reaction, the better the traffic.
“People threaten me with lawsuits every day, which is funny, because it fuels the site,” said Moore. “The people that get mad hate my site and want to take it down. They send me all this crazy stuff, but at the same time they’re just building content for my site, which just makes me more popular.”
When Moore tells you that he does not give a fuck, it seems like he actually means it. He regularly posts photos of himself naked, and even, once, a video of him drunkenly masturbating. His cellphone number, email address and Facebook page have been regularly featured on the site. Increasingly, he posts lurid stories from his personal life.
In roughly nine months of the site’s active existence, a cult of personality has grown up around Moore. An army of commenters reveres him and is quick to jump to his defense whenever he is attacked. I’ve seen a couple women offer up their virginity. Teenagers tell him that they will be submitting their pictures to him as soon as they turn 18. Many of these kids are “scene kids.” Swoopy hair, plug earrings, facial piercings, colorful tattoos. They listen to pop-punk and post-hardcore bands. They often have Tumblrs filled with earnest lyrics about love and love lost from bands that play on the Warped tour. And they leave hundreds of comments and responses every day to Moore on Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr.
In these exchanges, Moore is much the same as he is on his website. When a 14 year old questioned him on Tumblr whether his site was going to be around in four years because she wanted to be on it, he replied, “Yeah, hurry up.” When people post to Tumblr saying they feel sorry for Moore, or calling him a drug addict with no future, he reposts it and adds a stock photo of himself looking sad.
In his conversations with me, Moore maintained that the site is all in good fun. But sometimes it seems like he holds a grudge, such as the situation with Emily Gimmel that took place a few weeks ago.
Gimmel, a D-list reality-tv star on a show called “Southern Belles: Louisville,” had some salacious photos posted on the site. She threatened a defamatory suit alleging the pictures weren’t her, and continued to lash out at Moore through social media. She then became the subject of a number of posts.
When I questioned him about it a week or so later, he claimed to barely remember the incident. “Oh yeah! She’s dumb. She told me the FBI was going to be on it. I’m like, ‘They don’t care about you!’” said Moore. “That stuff is just funny to me, but it got played out after a few days. Nobody cares about it now; it’s just another day.”
To some, the FBI investigation rumor might not seem far-fetched. After all, following a yearlong investigation by the FBI, Christopher Chaney was indicted on 26 counts for releasing nude photos of celebrities, including Scarlett Johansson.
Those photos, however, were stolen. Moore walks a legal tightrope that so far has him on the right side of the law. His pictures are all legally acquired. And he never assumes ownership. Yet, as dismaying as it may be for those behind the flurry of public inquiries about why Moore is not in jail, he is not breaking any law.
Indeed, as Forbes explored this summer, Moore has done a thorough job of guarding himself against legal issues. “I’m very careful of what I do. Sometimes I get fucked up and write defamatory shit and it gets taken down, but I’m not breaking any laws. What are they gonna file a lawsuit against?” he said.
As Aaron Messing, an information privacy lawyer at OlenderFeldman LLP in New Jersey, explained it, Is Anyone Up? is protected by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996. The act provides immunity for Internet service providers — which is interpreted as including websites and blogs — who publish information provided by others. As long as Moore’s material is not illegal, such as child pornography, or copyrighted images, he is not liable. (Free takeaway lesson: file copyright take-down complaints, not defamation claims.)
“Mr. Moore, by only posting third-party content remains legally immune, even though he encourages people to send in pictures,” said Messing.
That’s why the submission form is so important. It is, essentially, a contract. “Anything defamatory, it’s not mine, it’s yours. You’re taking 100% ownership, I’m not taking the copyright,” Moore said. “With my site, I don’t want any of that.”
When pictures get sent in, and the sender has completed the submission form, the submission goes into a queue. Moore’s two security specialists then use a number of Internet-based research companies and a photo investigation system to verify ages to ensure that no pictures of anyone under 18 are posted.
This is Moore’s defense against claims that he’s posted child pornography. (Our conversation about this topic, by the way, was the only time during our interviews that Moore turned remotely serious.) While accusations are frequently lobbied against the site, Moore is adamant that he has never posted photos of anyone under 18. He also said that he’s worked with police agencies to help catch people who have submitted such photos, including one recent cooperative effort with the Virginia Beach Police, although he declined to give further details. “It’s the Internet. It’s horrible,” Moore said. “I will do anything I can and I will work with any police department so I can take you down.”
18- and 19-year-olds? That’s a different story. And Moore’s attitude toward the people who’ve had their pictures submitted without their consent seems unsympathetic at best, malicious at worst. “This might sound kind of shitty, but for me, I’m such an open person…. I’ve posted myself drunkenly masturbating, I’ve posted my phone number. I don’t really care. I’m mentally strong I guess. I can handle this shit, but I guess there’s some people who can’t,” he said.
A number of the people who’ve had their pictures on Is Anyone Up? without their consent have shut down their Facebook accounts and closed all other avenues of Internet contact, due to the flood of messages and requests they receive after a posting goes live. This can make it hard to get in touch with those who might have the strongest reasons to speak out against Moore. But some people have spoken publicly about it. This woman described the experience on Tumblr:
I was submitted to isanyoneup.com by my ex-boyfriend. I am confronted by friends, family and strangers that they have seen me naked online everyday…. You may think it’s funny but sometimes [I] don’t want to leave my house and go to the mall with my family because I fear somebody will come up to me while I’m with my mother and mention it. My sisters… are ashamed to be related with me and want to lie to their friends that they are my sisters. I am a disgrace to my family…. My self worth has gone out the window and I worry I may never get it back. This keeps me one step away from happiness every single day. I don’t know what to do anymore.
Here is what will happen if your pictures are posted on IAU: The site’s commenters will either harshly critique your body or compliment it. Your Facebook, Twitter and/or Tumblr accounts with be bombarded by friend requests and solicitations.
Some people I spoke to saw this as a good thing. Others I interviewed did not.
Twenty-year-old Sasha (names changed at request) found herself posted recently. She had been visiting the site for a while, and even submitted some people. “I thought it was kind of cool, until I realized that other people were submitting those [pictures] posted on the site, which I thought was a little malicious, but eventually I fell into the fray and began submitting photos of jerks I’ve encountered,” she told me.
Sasha, however, soon found herself posted, too. She had sought out Moore to “have a little fun,” and to ask why some of her submissions hadn’t been posted. She got into a risqué conversation with him that he posted to the site, and later someone else submitted nudes of hers she had sent out.
“At first I was devastated,” she said. A lot of guys and girls contacted her through Facebook, and also “a lot of really mean people were posting hurtful comments, calling me a slut, calling me nasty.”
She said it was tough, but eventually things calmed down — and she met a lot of people through the site, including her new boyfriend. “So now I’m a little flattered by all the new attention and I really enjoy the new company from all these guys and gals. It makes me feel like a mini-celeb.”
But shortly after our exchange, Sasha deactivated her Facebook account. When I asked her why by email, she said she needed a break from social media.
Krissy, a college student from Oregon is an active commenter on the site. While her photos have never appeared on the site, she actively communicates and trades pictures with a number of other commenters. “I like the voyeurism of it, the fact that these people’s private lives are exposed,” she said. “I like seeing Facebook profiles and knowing what those people look like naked.”
Now that Moore has linked the commenting system to Facebook, an extended network has formed, one that actively encourages participation and connections. Among many of the commenters and postees I spoke to there’s a strong feeling of community. They like IAU: They get to see members of their favorite bands naked and sometimes people they know. Twitter is awash with tweets about people bumping into someone from IAU, or seeing their cousin or former high school classmate on the site. People often check and re-check the site to see if pictures of anyone they know have been posted.
Moore makes no apologies or attempts to rationalize what he does. “What do I have to defend myself against? It comes down to, you’re fucking stupid and I’m making money off your mistakes. It might sound rough, but how else are you going to learn not to do this again? It’s like you’re playing Russian Roulette like, oh, let’s hope this doesn’t get out.”
He grew up in the Sacramento area and attended a private Christian school until he was kicked out in 8th grade. “I was shy as fuck,” he said. “That’s probably why I am the way I am now. In a way I’ve always wanted my voice heard. All these people wouldn’t give me attention, they blew me off all the time, and now in one month I accomplish more than they have in a year.”
He’d been building businesses since his early teens; by age 16, he had already started a clothing line and built a gaming forum. Around that time, he started getting into the club and music scene his website would eventually focus on and “dressing like a tranny.” After discovering social-networking prototypes Makeoutclub and LiveJournal he became convinced him he could put his Internet and networking skills to use and “do the Internet for life.”
“I’ve been networking since I was a little kid, pretty much. I didn’t know it at the time. It was like ‘Pokemon, gotta catch ’em all,’” he said. The list of contacts and friends he made during this period would later serve as the startup followers (and subjects) of IAU.
By then he had long since dropped out of high school. He bounced around a few jobs and then attended beauty school. While working a retail job, he filed a sexual harassment suit that left him with a hefty settlement. (He said that the terms of the settlement don’t allow him to comment further.)
From there Moore split time, first living in Williamsburg, before moving back to San Francisco and touring with the band The Millionaires as a manager of sorts. Convinced by a friend who was traveling the world and encouraged by some girls he had met on Myspace he moved to Australia.
By the time he returned to New York in 2010, he had lost every dollar and had to take a job doing hair styling for porn shoots. Moore describes this as a particularly dark period. “I’d never been so close to killing myself before. I had no money and was in serious debt. I went from the highest point of my life to the lowest, I just fucked up. No one that age should get that much money.”
Around this time, he had the idea for a website. In this first concept, Is Anyone Up? was going to be a travel guide dedicated to nightlife and traveling the world, a place for reviews of nights at venues as well as the telling of debauched stories. He bought the domain, but couldn’t focus his energy properly. “At that point, I was doing too many drugs, fucking randoms, and just generally out of it,” he said.
One night, while IMing with friends, Moore attempted to send a naked picture of a girl he was sleeping with. When it didn’t work, a friend convinced him to upload it to isanyoneup.com, then dormant. He and his friends started adding to the site, just for laughs, he said. A B9 forum poster somehow came across the site, and one day Moore checked the traffic and realized the site had gotten 14,000 unique hits the day before. That’s when things started to pick up.
Musicians became a fixture of the site. Many of the women Moore had met through the music scene had libraries of naked band member photos but no place to post them. “There was nowhere to go for these girls to look at straight, normal dudes naked,” said Moore. “All the girls I knew from the scene were like ‘post this guy.’”
He posted pictures of a member of a band he now can’t recall. It was reposted lots of places, and Moore, noticing the traffic spike, realized he had to include men in the site concept. With every newly revealed guitarist, the traffic picked up.
The site now gets roughly 175,000 unique hits a day, according to Moore. (Compete.com put September traffic at about 100,000 a day.) And it’s growing. Quickly. So far he’s added very little advertising, though he does make money through merchandise. It’s enough to cover that $8,000 server bill with a little left over. He still does hair on the side for private clients.
Moore said to expect bigger things in the future. “I have some crazy shit that will change the world. It will be on TMZ. Big celebrities have sent me bigger celebrities, but as of now I’m not going to do that.”
Definitely in the works right now is a mobile app that Moore calls a game changer as far as social networking. Moore wouldn’t get specific, but did say that the technology is “something so different, but so simple, even Facebook will be jealous of me.”
“It’s going to be ready in, like, seven weeks,” he said. “You’re going to love me.” Already Moore is compiling a list from the site of beta testers.
Besides that, he’s working on starting a nonprofit to combat underage sexting. He plans on organizing lectures at local schools about the damage it can do. “My site is already an education on technology, how people abuse it. I think it’s dangerous to give any underage kid a cameraphone,” he said. He seemed serious.
As for advice for those who’ve had their pictures posted and aren’t happy about it, Moore is his usual dismissive self. “Once you’re on page two, nobody gives a fuck anymore.”
Danny Gold is a journalist and filmmaker who lives in Brooklyn. He writes about crime, politics, boxing, culture and parties for a bunch of different New York newspapers.
Picture from Moore’s Facebook page.