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 email@example.com 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?"
Before going to sleep at night, Moore brainstorms interesting things to ask people to do the next day, such as rubbing salami on their phallus or sticking certain things up their vagina or spider-pooping (Google it). And the next day people will gladly send him pictures of themselves doing such things in order to receive a free T-shirt and/or increase their number of Twitter followers. Some girls have gotten very lucrative porn gigs from being on IAU. Some have met their spouses. With all this creative energy flowing, the current question is what will become of the IAU brand now that the website is gone for good: "I was basically bought out to shut Hunter Moore down, you know." But Hunter Moore believes that he can brand Hunter Moore, that enough Internet mayhem is now associated with his name that he can ride that wave on to greatness. In the meantime, he's been approached about writing a book of his sexcapades ("If Snooki can have a book, anybody can"); he's pitching a reality show; he's planning a new website that may bring revenge porn back, while also having a socialnetworking component "for networking, like, really fast, so people can have sex way faster than normal"; and he's traveling the country hosting IsAnyoneUp parties, where he very nominally DJs ("I literally taught myself on the plane two hours before my first set in Toronto") and persuades people to do things such as lick each other's butt holes when the beat drops.
Naturally, Moore wants to show me just how good a party he can throw. But before doing that, he wants to drive to San Francisco to have dinner with his girlfriend. By the way, he has a girlfriend. It may strain credulity to think that any young woman would submit her heart to one to whom so many others submit quite different parts of their anatomy, and I was fully prepared for this purported girlfriend to never quite materialize. But I was wrong. We picked her up at an actual house. We went to an actual restaurant. We ate sushi. She has a name, Kirra. And here's the thing: There seemed to be an actual boyfriendgirlfriend vibe going on between those two, Kirra and Moore. They call each other "babe." When hanging up the phone or parting ways, Moore tells her "I love you" in the preoccupied, instinctual way of someone who says that to her all the time. But despite Kirra's blond, sex-kitten appeal, they haven't consummated this love in a long, long time. Moore knows that having casual, meaningless sex is part of his job description, and he doesn't think it's fair to be sleeping with strangers and with Kirra, too. For her part, Kirra lets Moore do what he wants as long as she doesn't have to hear about it. As she tells me, "It's not your typical relationship, I guess."
What happened in Poughkeepsie – well, let's just say it started off well. In fact, the night before, in Rochester, New York, was a real peach – one of those nights that makes Moore believe in the promise of his future. He was hosting a party at the Dub Land Underground, and had arranged to meet a girl from Buffalo he'd had his eye on and who'd just turned 18. "I'm gonna have sex with her and take a bunch of pictures," Moore happily announced as another Internet fan who'd appeared in the flesh that night – the first one, speaking of flesh, to ever get an IAU tattoo – started passing out shots. And within 20 minutes, he was doing just that. Not only did he have condomless sex with this girl – a tiny black-haired thing in an even-more-tiny, hot-pink dress – but she was even so accommodating as to allow him to pour vodka in her vagina and lick it out. She was a real sweetheart that way. So much so that he decided to ignore the other two girls who were waiting outside the greenroom hoping to have their go at him next. The only downside about Pink Dress was that he didn't get off, but these days, he rarely does. It's an occupational hazard, he thinks, becoming "desensitized" like that. "I gotta be on something," he says, "to even be in the mood."
It wasn't always so. When he lost his virginity to a ninth-grader during lunch period in seventh grade, he was appropriately psyched about it. Two years before that, when he first masturbated, he thought he'd broken his penis, but then he kept breaking it again and again. But now? "The only reason I do shit is for content for my site."
Anyway, it wasn't long before he had to perform. Onstage, with DJ Android Rights, otherwise known as Ryan, and a very gracious go-go dancer named Kat, he set things off by announcing that "I just fucked the shit out of a girl in your greenroom, so thank you for the hospitality" and by offering free shots of vodka, which Kat began administering from the stage with the patience of a nurse doling out some gentle tonic. It was a Tuesday. One-hundred sixty-five people had paid at the door and were now dancing aerobically, including the guy who would later tell Moore, "It's a shame about the site 'cause that was my daily news feed." It was a good time.
But it was an even better time back in the greenroom, which an hour later was hotboxed with pot smoke. Moore will deign to smoke pot in a pinch, but that night, he was able to score cocaine, and the key bump sure worked its chemical magic: "Holy shit, I can't feel my lips!" And then Pink Dress was back there again, with another girl whose own tiny garment kept riding up over her panties and who was clearly less attractive, but also substantially more fucked up. Moore bounced Panties on his knee while Pink Dress looked on, slit-eyed, from the sofa.
"You gonna show me your butt?" he asked Panties at one point. "Oh my God, you're so hot. You're so fucking hot."
"No!" she protested.
"Just show him your butt," Pink Dress yawned.
"If all of you show him your butt at the same time, I'll be down," Panties slurred. "I want it to be mutual."
Pink rolled her eyes, but still hoisted her slinky frame up from the sofa. They did their mutual butt-showing.
"Dude, would you have sex with us?" Moore asked Panties after she righted herself.
She considered for a moment. "I probably would."
Then Pink's killjoy friend barged in, insisting that they leave – it's a long ride back to Buffalo, and the friend had a baby at home. And Moore didn't really want to sleep with Panties: What he really wanted was more cocaine, and so did Panties. Boy, did she ever. Later that night, back in his hotel room, she agreed to do her line off his erect penis as he snapped a photo of this and uploaded it to Tumblr. But he still didn't want to sleep with her. She wasn't that hot. And seriously, he can't sleep with just anyone. At some point in the early morning, he sent her on her way.
So, that was Rochester. On to Poughkeepsie, where, after a six-hour drive and a ticket for an obstructed rear window, the crowd at the Loft is just not that cool – more on the fratty side of things than Moore usually has to deal with. Still, by the end, he has five girls up onstage with their shirts off, dancing so hard their mascara is running. He seems to be having fun. So it's sort of difficult to explain what happens next. The set is over and Moore and Ryan are in the darkened theater behind the club and Ryan is smoking a little pot when Moore mentions that he might possibly start working with the same company that books Daft Punk and therefore might possibly start touring with them. (Says Moore, "I was basically bullshiting.") At this news, Ryan expresses either pleasant surprise or utter disbelief – depending on whom you ask – at which point Moore punches him square in the face. Stunned, Ryan shows up at the merch table with blood gushing from his nose and down the front of his T-shirt and someone calls the police, who arrive several minutes later with sirens blaring to perform a rather cursory search of the club before announcing that Moore is nowhere to be found. Ryan asks them how to press charges.
At 2:47 a.m., after a trip to the hospital to determine whether Ryan's nose is broken, I'm back at the Days Inn when I get a text from Moore: "Are you at your hotel can we talk?" I call him. Am I OK, he wants to know. He's so, so, so, so, so sorry. That guy Ryan was threatening him, and he's got a family to support, not just himself, but his parents, his grandma. "Let me come to the hotel and just talk to you in the lobby, just for a few minutes," he says. I decline his offer and go to sleep.
The last time i see Moore is in New York. He is chagrined. The night before, he'd DJ'd the Trash! party at Webster Hall, and people kept coming up onstage, not realizing that a male stripper dressed as a cowboy was impatiently waiting to go on for his big number. Words were exchanged. Moore threw a coke key at Cowboy, whereupon they commenced to tussle. Next thing Moore knew, the police were cuffing him and he was being head-patted into the back of a cop car. So instead of partying it up rock-star-style in the basement of the Hotel Chantelle, he spent several hours behind bars, while a gaggle of scene girls in pleather corsets, ripped stockings and stripper heels posed for photos with some fairly titillated policemen outside the station. Even after he was released and was back at the Hudson Hotel, in bed with his friend Jazmin and some skinny blond chick, he still felt down-in-the-mouth about the whole thing. "Like, guys would kill for a fucking threesome, and I'm just like, 'God, can I go to sleep now?'"
He ended up sleeping through most of the next day and missing a studio session with "Chicken Noodle Soup" rapper Young B. He woke up to Google his charges. Most likely he'll get away with a fine. But still. After all the ruckus he's caused, to spend a night in jail for something like this?
Now, walking the streets of the West Village past sundown, Moore ponders the fact that he's gotten himself into a bit of a bind. "I should probably calm down, but it's like, I can't. It's my business," he says. "What am I going to do? Crazy, sober living or something?" It's like the time he saw Mark Zuckerberg at the Knockout bar in San Francisco and was like, "This may be the smartest business decision ever if I just punch this guy in the face right now 'cause that would get me so fucking popular. Like, unless I raped Steve Jobs, what else is there?" He would have tried it, too, if it hadn't been for the security guards. He knows these thoughts are maybe a little crazy, but it's just how he has to think now – in uniques, analytics and herding the Internet masses his way. One of his biggest traffic days ever was the day he was stabbed.
We have burgers at some grimy joint. Moore orders a club soda. He tells me that he hasn't heard from the FBI in months, but that it's not like they call you up to let you know you're off the hook. Still, he's not too worried. He's sure some of IAU's nudes were obtained by hacking, but swears that he's never hacked anyone himself, that he wouldn't even know how to start. Nor has he heard from Ryan again. "Why would I? Who gives a fuck about that guy?" Then he gets kind of deep: He says that the happiest he's ever been was the day he sold the site, that "ruining people's lives with naked pictures wasn't, you know, the ideal job." He says he knows he's self-involved, he's been to a lot of shrinks, he likes that they actually listen. He says he's done things for money that even he can't believe: "Stuff that I won't mention, stuff that you don't talk about – nothing gay, no dudes, but it's shit that I'm definitely not proud of." He says that the one thing he gets off on is making money.
But speaking of getting off, he's got to go now. No more deepness from Moore, no more examining of the soul. There's a stripper from New Orleans he's supposed to meet back at his hotel, and he doesn't want to keep her waiting. He'll have sex with her, maybe take some pictures, and then he'll try to get some good, restorative sleep. And while he's asleep, chances are he'll keep dreaming.
This is from the October 11th, 2012 issue of Rolling Stone.