Let it be known that Hunter Moore sleeps well. He sleeps deeply, profoundly, and when he sleeps, he dreams wondrous and beautiful dreams in which, for instance, he finds himself in possession of a large fortune. ("I'll find a treasure chest, and I'll wake up like, 'Oh my God, I have all this treasure!'") In fact, such a dream he may be dreaming now as he is carried down Interstate 90 in the back seat of a powder-blue Toyota Matrix, window down, wind in his hair, sun glaring, music blaring, head lilting forward in innocent slumber, with his occasional touring partner, DJ Android Rights, at the wheel hurtling him toward Poughkeepsie, New York, and, less specifically but more cosmically, toward his future destiny, which Moore sees as wide open and bright and full of fortune.
For those who choose to use the Internet merely as a tool of chaste productivity and who therefore don't know who Moore is – and if he has anything to do with it, that number is dwindling daily – the innocent slumber may not mean much. But it will surely come as a surprise to those who recognize Moore as the 26-year-old founder of IsAnyoneUp.com, a so-called revenge-porn website that allowed jilted lovers in possession of an ex's compromising photos to send said photos to Moore, who first verified that the unlucky subject was 18 or older and then posted them online to the delight and mockery of the roughly 350,000 unique visitors he says prowled IsAnyoneUp on a robust day. Take that! Such comeuppance, however, was kind of paltry and not unique to Moore's site. What was really inspired about IAU was that alongside the photos, Moore included the ex's full name, profession, social-media profile and city of residence, which ensured that the pictures would pop up on Google, which further ensured that, in short order, the ex's mom and boss and everyone else would be seeing him or her online, sans skivvies.
In the course of the website's 16-month life span, such was the fate of an American Idol finalist, the daughter of a major GOP donor, the co-founder of Dream Water ("Obviously didn't make Smart Water," Moore has said), Passion Pit's bassist, Kreayshawn, one Real Housewife, various real housewives, mothers, schoolteachers, midgets and a woman in a wheelchair, among many others – 15 to 30 a day. Taking note, the BBC named Moore "the Net's most hated man." Facebook banned him for life and then, recognizing they were being duped, also banned his 40-pound cat, Alan (Moore responded with a photo of his penis). PayPal blocked him. Anonymous tried to hack him. After her nudes ended up on IAU, one woman came to his house with her father and – when Dad failed to be sufficiently threatening – took matters into her own hands, stabbing Moore in the shoulder with a ballpoint pen, the removal of which required a trip to the hospital and left a gnarly scar. (His first thought: "Oh my God, this is gonna be the best post ever.") He received death threats. He got in the habit of changing his phone number every month. Scared that he would be murdered in his sleep, he went to live at his grandma's house for a while.
Then shit got serious. After he went on Anderson Cooper's talk show to be confronted by two girls whose boobs he had posted on IAU, the real weirdos came out to play, submitting truly hardcore stuff – child porn, animal porn, not your run-of-the-mill revenge porn – which, at the very least, someone at IAU had to sift through every day. Not to be left out, Dr. Drew had Moore on his show for some serious fingerwagging from a very unamused mother (Moore's response: "I'm sorry that your daughter was 'cyber-raped,' but, I mean, now she's educated on technology.") Then came allegations of hacking, as a number of IAU victims found that a certain firstname.lastname@example.org had been having his way with their computer files just before their photos ended up on the site. Moore contends IAU was protected by the Communications Decency Act of 1996, which does not allow websites to be held accountable for user-submitted content. With the blessing of his lawyer, whom he'd met while partying at the W Hotel in San Francisco, Moore sometimes responded to cease-and-desist letters with a simple "LOL." But in May, the FBI kicked in his door, sat him down on his couch and presented a warrant to search for evidence of hacking. He was "fucking scared shitless."
Never mind that IsAnyoneUp was making Moore not just infamous but actually famous, with a following composed of heavily tattooed "scene" kids, free-speechers and, most especially, nubile young women who aspired to get on Moore's site and in his pants, probably not in that order. (On Twitter he provokes endless debate: Some beg him to "head-butt a knife," but those requests are offset by lots of creepy fawning – "If you had AIDS, I'd still fuck you just to say I have AIDS and that I got AIDS from you.") He shuttered the site anyway, sold it to the anti-bullying website Bullyville.com and halfheartedly attempted to rebrand himself as a friend to the oppressed, while simultaneously saying on TV such incredible things as "I don't feel it's sleazy at all" and "I don't know how you can point your finger at me; you took the picture" and "Somebody was gonna monetize this, and I was the person to do it."
In other words, who the hell was this guy, really? What dark psychoses could account for such mischief? And was there anything resembling a human soul lurking on the other side of the screen?
The most hated man on the Internet lives in a nondescript beige house on a street lined with other beige houses in a quiet, leafy town just north of Sacramento. At night, or rather at daybreak, Moore rests his large head on the rumpled blue sheets in his childhood bedroom. A desktop computer with two monitors sits on a table plastered with skateboarding stickers, while above the bed hangs a framed T-shirt, a vestige of Moore's first professional endeavor. Moore, you see, is an entrepreneur. He started the T-shirt company in the eighth grade, shortly after being kicked out of a private Christian school. ("Oh, I just got in fights all the time," he says of this incident. "I was an angry little kid.") Before dropping out of high school a few years later, he had also started an online community for the fantasy video game Diablo II and a local party promotion business, the proceeds from which made him feel like sitting in class was a waste of his time. "Then I turned 18 and started doing real shit," he says. The "real shit" included becoming an occasional hairstylist for a fetish-porn site, winning a six-figure sexual-harassment lawsuit from a cheesy mall retail store, using the windfall to tromp around Europe and Japan, before settling in Australia for a year simply because "they party superhard there," only to come back home when he got scabies. After that, he started a sex-party company that did "gay parties, gangbangs, all types of shit," selling the operation once he became "worried, because it was almost prostitution," and then casting about for his next way to use the symbiosis of social media and sex to his advantage.
IsAnyoneUp was a lucky accident. "How it started was I was having sex with this girl who was engaged to this kind of semifamous band guy, and all my friends wanted to see her naked because she was so cute," Moore explains. While having technical difficulties making the pictures she had sent him visible to his friends, he realized he could just post them to a dormant domain he'd purchased for possible party promotion. Over time, his friends added some pictures of their own. And then, about a week later, he checked the analytics and saw, to his surprise, that the site had 14,000 unique visits. "And I was like, 'Holy shit, I could make money doing this.'" Which he did, sometimes as much as $30,000 a month.
We're in the family room as he tells me this. Deer heads hang on the walls alongside family photos, and Moore (named Hunter after his father's favorite pastime) sits at a dining table clicking through submissions for the IAU Tumblr site – which now traffics in self-submitted nudes instead of revenge porn – and occasionally posting goading messages to Twitter to replenish the supply (today, for instance, is "Man Boob Monday"). This, he says, is how he spends the bulk of his time when he's at home. Since his parents retired and moved to a property near a hunting preserve in Idaho, he's pretty much had the run of the place, which is immaculately clean and aggressively suburban, with that soft-focus California sunshine spilling in through the sliding doors. Moore, too, isn't what I expected. There are the tattoos, the pierced nape, the black clothes, sure, but from the moment he opens the front door, he's good-natured and accommodating. Would I like something to drink? Am I too cold? Should he change the thermostat? Would I like to see pictures of his nieces? Oh, don't look at that butt-hole picture! It's just disgusting. There are cupcakes on the kitchen counter.
The veneer of normalcy only confuses matters, so later, I call up Moore's mom, Jeanette, who sounds both surprisingly sane and unsurprisingly baffled by her son's career. The day Moore was born, there was such a huge storm that it ripped the barn door off the farm they were living on at the time. Maybe that explains things, Jeanette thinks. She wants me to know that Moore's older sister was a missionary, that "we're normal people. He had a normal upbringing" – good at sports, lots of friends, weekends spent hunting with Dad. But Moore was never normal. You couldn't intimidate him. You could tell him he had to wear pants, and he'd hide under his bed. You could forbid him to get a tattoo, and he'd get your face inked on his arm. But then again, he could be so sweet, so funny, so full of charisma. "Unless you had a kid like this, you couldn't understand," Jeanette says. Now she's just "hoping this crazy life warps into something else."
And to be honest, Moore kind of does as well. He'd love to "just fucking dominate the world, like the white P. Diddy." But the problem is "this is the real world," and for someone who doesn't have an education, the Internet can provide a viable career alternative if you know how to read and manipulate its trends. This involves giving people what they want and, according to Moore, what people want is "to hurt one another" and "to get back at the people that hurt them" and also to see other people doing "dumb shit." It helps that he only knows the people he posts as "what they are: an avatar on the Internet." It also helps that he feels like he's sort of playing a character too. But also sort of not: "I mean, I have parts of my personality where I am a fucking dick, but when it's to the point where I'm 100 percent playing a character, I probably won't want to do it anymore." For now, though, he'll happily post pictures of his penis "with a bunch of cats Photoshopped behind it," but would never, ever post a photo of his mom or his sister: "Are you out of your fucking mind? Like, why would I?"
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