When we interviewed Hunter Moore in August 2012, the “revenge porn” impresario was in the midst of what appeared to be a sudden change of heart. He was closing down Is Anyone Up?, the site he founded, and turning over a new leaf by partnering with a bullying advocacy site. Following on the heels of a high profile piece in the Village Voice, in which he continued to espouse his nihilistic, untouchable bad boy shtick, it came as a big surprise.
[Photos: Charlotte Laws by Jeremy Saffer]
It wasn't as out of the blue as it seemed, he explained. He'd been trying to shut the site down for months. “I didn't have any pending lawsuits or FBI investigations or anything crazy like that,” the revered “freedom of speech” advocate and reviled internet bully said. “It was just time.”
There's only one way to stop a bully, of course, and that's with an even bigger one. And bullies don't come much bigger than the FBI.
It turns out that around the same time, in January the FBI had in fact begun investigating Moore, who was arrested and indicted, along with alleged co-conspirator Charles Evans, on 15 federal counts, including conspiracy and identity theft. Moore pleaded not guilty to the charges and is expected to go to trial in April.
Defending himself to AP at the time, Moore explained the loose interpretation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act that he believed protected his site from legal ramifications. “It's all user-submitted content. They can't do anything to me. I'm protected by the same thing as Facebook, Twitter or Google. Everything comes back on the submitter.”
He may have been in the clear if that's actually how things had operated. But, as the indictment alleges, over a period of a few months from late 2011 to March of 2012, Moore paid Evans $2,000 to hack into the account of seven individuals to steal photos. Evans then submitted the photos to the site using separately created email accounts to cover his tracks.
“I was always interested to see if anyone would take me to court,” Moore said. “I just got too cocky.”
That's one way of putting it. Another way of looking at it is that he finally messed with the wrong person.
Back in October 2011, a 24-year-old California woman named Kayla Laws had taken some cellphone pictures of herself in various states of undress, which she emailed from her phone to her computer. She never shared them with anyone, she said. Three months later, in January 2012, a topless picture of Laws appeared on Is Anyone Up?.
Unlike so many other people who've found themselves the victims of revenge porn sites, Laws' mother Charlotte [pictured left and above, photos courtesy of Jeremy Saffer], a former private investigator who detailed her story earlier this year on xoJane, wasn't going to let this one go.
First she sent a takedown notice to Moore. Since her daughter owned the photo, she argued that posting it to the site was a copyright violation. That didn't work.
“As far as removing people’s pictures and stuff,” Moore said when we spoke, “dude, I had to pay my bills. If I removed friends of friends or everyone who sent me a DCMA request, all these fake lawyers and shit, I wouldn't have had any content. I was looking out for Hunter No. 1. I don't give a fuck about anyone else. That comes before anything I do.”
When that didn't work, Laws began contacting those associated with Moore. She tried his site's hosting company, his publicist, his attorney, advertisers, even the place she believed his mother worked at the time. Around that time a friend of her daughter's also showed up on the site, and she realized this was a case of hacking, not the type of user-submitted content from jilted lovers that sites like these claim to be.
“The media was always reporting it as disgruntled exes. I thought, ‘No, it's about hacking,’” Laws told AP.