(Photo: Dustin Fenstermacher)
When we last heard from Is Anyone Up? founder Hunter Moore—who’s either one of the Four Horsemen of the (Internet) Apocalypse or the coolest dude ever, depending on your perspective—he was affecting a typically brash pose in the face of his legion of critics. It was only a few weeks ago when the Village Voice published a feature which brought further scrutiny upon Moore's ethically (although, apparently, not legally) questionable online enterprise. He seemed characteristically unfazed.
So the news that he'd abruptly decided to shut down the popular website late last week came as a shock to fans and foes alike. Not long before, he'd stood up to the internet's biggest alpha dog, Facebook, claiming to have replied to a cease-and-desist letter from their lawyers with a picture of his dick. (“I don't give a fuck. I'm never going to stop,” he told Gawker at the time.) Shockingly, Moore seems to have grown a conscience, at least relatively speaking. In a letter on the site BullyVille.com, he announced he was shuttering Is Anyone Up? for good.
Over the weekend, we spoke with Moore about his seemingly sudden change of heart. It wasn't hard to see why so many people have been charmed by the funny, charismatic internet frontman. At the same time, it’s also not hard to see why he's so maddening.
The time of this announcement seems really weird. What brought this on?
I didn't come about it all of a sudden; I've been trying to shut down my site for a really long time. I wasn't just going to do it – I have to support myself and pay my bills. James [McGibney, founder of CheaterVille and BullyVille] had been talking to me, and he'd been giving me money for little Twitter campaigns. We were talking for months, going back and forth on how to end the site. He came to me with BullyVille. I was like, “Dude let's do it.” It was a lot of hard work to shut the site down. I've been working for four or five months to get it to end. To everybody else, it seemed like we just turned it off.
I think the reason it seems weird is in that Village Voice article, you seemed as brash and defiant as ever. Did you know you were going to shut down when you were giving the interview?
I didn't even really know then. [The interview] was March 8; I didn't even actually know, you know, about BullyVille probably until I got home like three days later, actually. That's when we really started hammering something out. It was back and forth. With the Village Voice thing, I can see how it seems I was getting pressured to shut the site down. I had the ABC piece that was supposed to air the day before we shut the site down. I didn't have any pending lawsuits or FBI investigations or anything crazy like that. It was just time.
You can understand why people wouldn't believe you, right?
Oh, of course. It's doing a 180. People think I'm the devil. I can see how it would be a little hard to understand. What the hell, this thing I'm doing now is going to help out charities. Our main goal is to help out underage kids. I've been pretty vocal about that.
[With Is Anyone Up?] people want to hear about [the underage kids] and don't want to hear about [my efforts to keep them off]. It's all about traffic and pushing numbers. People didn't want to focus on the little good stuff I was doing. I always stood up for underage kids, always pulled it down. I helped schools to block Is Anyone Up?
How much of your image you put forth in the media was a character? You're can't be that much of a total fucking douchebag, right?
No, I mean, I'm just me. I haven't changed from Wednesday to Thursday; I'm still Hunter Moore. I am a nice guy, I just started a crazy website that got out of control. I like boobs and girls, and I like seeing my peers naked. I wrote stories and people saw a glimpse into my life, but I don't go around and when I see a fat girl, say, “Hey you're fucking fat.” I'm, like, one of the nicest guys in the world; most people who meet me are pretty surprised. I get called a sweetheart every day. It's a character other people built off assumption. It's the internet. I don't really quote Kid Rock that often, but he said something like, “If Jesus came back today there would probably be somebody leaving a comment on the internet saying 'Jesus was a douchebag.' People built my character up. I think I'm like any other dude, but it came with territory with the site.
I'm a dude, and I like naked girls too. But I think the thing that bothers people the most was denying the requests to take pictures down when people asked, and rubbing it in their faces. Is that something you regret?
I don't. I think it's something...it's just standing up for basic rights of the internet and free speech. It's the same thing with ACTA or SOPA or anything like that. The DCMA—all that stuff is mostly bullshit. It's the internet—I feel like I was protecting internet rights and free speech, sharing stuff in the common interest, even if it’s music on a YouTube video. I think that's common internet rights. I felt like I was standing up for the internet.
As far as removing peoples pictures and stuff… 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 number one. I don't give a fuck about anyone else. That comes before anything I do.
But looking back… it's been a year-and-a-half since I started the site. I'm a lot more mature than I was. I do regret some things, but I did a really good job. I had horrible stuff posted every day. I chose to delete it or not approve any of the content. I want to pat myself on the back for that. It could have been a lot worse. If I was a horrible guy I would've posted suicide pictures, dudes fucking dogs with no heads, car accidents. I regret some things and I don't regret others. I felt like I was standing up for internet when I was telling [the lawyers] to fuck off. I feel like the lawyers were committing the real crimes, taking these peoples' money when they knew they couldn't get anything done.
You've really never been sued? It seems hard to believe. Nothing aside from threatening legal letters?
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. You submit underage content, you're going to jail. Animal cruelty pictures, you're going to jail. It all goes back on you, not me. Facebook was trying to shut me down; I made 13k a month on the site, Facebook is worth billions—they couldn’t do anything. It's the kid at Starbucks who I feel horrible for, they didn't have the means to take me to court. I was always interested to see if anyone would take me to court. I just got too cocky.
Did you learn anything about how weird internet fame is? Why would anyone want to have sex with you, or be friends with you—I mean, aside from the normal reasons anyone would with you as a person?
I'm still me, but the reason people want to hang out with me and girls want to have sex with me is all about attention and numbers on Twitter, Facbeook or your Tumblr count. It all comes down to attention and numbers and how relevant you are. Girls will do anything for an extra 100 followers. Girls hang out with me in pictures to get extra likes on Facebook. It doesn't matter about you, it always comes down to them and how cool they are. I would think I was a douchebag if I met some guy who made fun of vaginas on the internet. I wouldn't hang out with me. I would think I was a complete douchebag. The thing I've learned is what people will do for a few moments of attention.
What percentage of the pics on the site were willfully submitted and what were done as “revenge” type things?
It was weird, I would say right before the site ended, like a week ago, we probably got 60 percent submissions and 40 percent revenge, I guess you could say. It's all about numbers and being cool on the internet. A lot of people wanted to be cool on the internet.
Who was sending the underage pics? What did you do about it?
We didn't want any of it connected to any kind of underage stuff, obviously; we didn't want to get in trouble. What we would do is users would submit to our cloud server, it would go into cloud server with all your information, and it would give us a breakdown of that. When we reported stuff, we'd report to National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. They had a quicker way of dealing with the FBI than us actually going to the FBI. [The pictures] wouldn't be labeled under Is Anyone Up? We would submit 14-15 underage submissions a day. It was a lot.
Do you mean like older teenagers or, like, ten-year-olds?
Rarely did we ever get anyone, like, 12 or 13 or anything. I only remember personally having to deal with two submissions that were under age 13. They were always from like Sweden or Russia if we ever got them. Nothing in the States. I started paying people to deal with that. They would send me a report at the end of the day if they got any underage stuff. It was all like [ages] 16-17, mostly.
Do you feel like you have to do penance now?
Like a PR stunt? No, it just comes down to—it's not like I became a Christian overnight. I'm still—you don't understand, I'm still the same person, I'm still a human being. I know people don't see me as that. I don't want to hurt people, I don't want to see them lose their jobs. I just became that and I had to run with it, I wasn't going to shut it down and be poor. It's always about money. I'm still same person, but I'm going to use what I have to help charities; I have autism and dementia in my family. I'm still going to have sex with girls, and keep doing too many drugs and writing about it. I'm just using a little of my talents for good. It just slipped out of my hands way too fast.
What is BullyVille? What will your role be there if anything?
Right now, I don't have a role for BullyVille, but I'm going to making original content for them. The same idea as with Is Anyone Up. I have a gift to get people to come to my sites without paying for ads, boobs or not. BullyVille is the first social networking site to stop online bullying... CheaterVille was like my site, but had to do with cheaters. This is social networking to stop cyber bullying, and at school. I'm going to do video and films with them.
I have a sense that you seem to think there's a difference between people “being pussies” about online bullying, and the type of bullying that actually does real harm.
Yeah, to me, obviously the cyber bullying... I'm going to try to be good with what I say, because I get misquoted all the time. Cyber bullying is something that people are running with right now. It's kind of a fad, I guess. I think it's just common sense to turn off the computer and not look at stuff people are saying. I'm talking about traditional trolling people on 4chan and Facebook, people who don't know you.
It's different with the kid who gets beat up at school, and his only safe place is at home away from the kids beating him up and [when he] goes to check his Facebook, it's the same people there. It's relentless. That's a whole other story. I see it every day. The stuff I see people killing themselves over—complaining they [personally] made a YouTube video and people made fun of them [is less serious]. What I'm going to do with BullyVille is give kids a safe haven to point out bullies at school, and try to get them to stop before there is another Columbine or Virginia Tech or something. I have no concern for a 45-year-old mother being called fat because she stared a fight with a kid on Facebook.
Why the Facebook profiles and names attached? I get the idea of amateur pornography, but why give out real info? I think that was the thing that was most hurtful about the site. Do you see why that's different than just an anonymous picture?
I see what you mean. When I first started the site, that wasn't a part of it. It was actually pretty recent; we've only been doing it, like, 8 months. What happened was, we would do it with Twitter, the people who did support signs, wrote on their bodies stuff like that, but people wanted to lurk a little bit harder, stalk a little bit more. The reason Facebook and social networking are so popular is you get a glimpse into someone's life even if you don't know them, or if you do. You get to click through and see them as real person. It's a whole other level of porn; these are people you can reach out and touch and contact, maybe hang out with. You might know them, pass them at school. That was the whole idea. It just took off and I gave people what they wanted. That was what Is Anyone Up? was.
What do you think people think is the hottest or most titillating of the following three things: seeing pictures of someone naked when they don't know that you're looking at them [normal 'amateur' porn], seeing pictures when the subject intended them to be looked at [traditional porn], or seeing pictures of someone who knows you're seeing them, yet really, really doesn't want you to [many of the photos on Is Anyone Up?]?
When you're not supposed to see it, if it was given to somebody else. Especially people in a professional setting. You have a million friends on Facebook, it's like you're taking away something from them. You judge them and compare yourself to them and feel better about yourself. It's all about what you're not supposed to be doing. It's like saying, “Don't press that big red button”—then everybody wants to do it.
Is there anything else you want people to know about you?
Just add that selling out is the American dream, and I did it. alt