The cyber rapist is Hunter Moore of the website, IsAnyoneUp.com. Some of his most ardent supporters proudly label him this way. Moore posts naked photos of ordinary people, which he links to their Facebook or Twitter accounts, often indicating their hometown and place of work. Beneath the pictures, Moore’s followers post crude and misogynistic remarks. Victims might be taunted as “fat cows,” “creatures with nasty teeth,” “ugly whores,” “white trash sluts” and “whales.” One commenter says, ”Jesus, someone call Greenpeace and get her back in the water.” Moore has posted pictures of a partially blind paraplegic, a kindergarten teacher, and a mentally incapacitated woman, among others. The website is not about pornography; it is about hurting others.
Moore brags that he is a “professional life ruiner” and “scummy” and that his website is “pure evil”; and he maintains that his victims—both male and female—asked to be abused. In his view, those who snap sexy pictures in the privacy of their bedroom are sluts and deserve to lose their jobs, embarrass their families and find themselves forever ruined. When a person’s name and naked body gets indexed into Google and other search engines, it is almost impossible to remove. Like an infectious disease; it spreads quickly and can prove fatal to reputation, especially when foreign websites snag the images and further disseminate them.
Moore chooses his victims carefully. He does not post well-to-do, A-list celebrities—although he claims to possess such photos--because he fears they could nail him with a pricey lawsuit. He preys on the vulnerable: those who lack resources or “connections.” Copyright lawyer Marc Randozza says that bringing a lawsuit to fruition against Moore could cost $60,000. Although a judge can award a victim as much as $150,000 per copyright infringement and although Moore would most probably lose in court, Randozza thinks Moore might hide his assets. This would leave plaintiffs with nothing and feeling further exploited.
Mainstream media is often wrong about Moore because he has a whimsical relationship with the truth. Moore does not live in San Francisco, nor does his lawyer live in Las Vegas, as he claims. Moore rarely removes photos when asked, begged or served with legal letters. He ignores copyright infringement; and his website is not largely a platform for “revenge porn,” as most articles say. “Revenge porn” occurs when an angry ex submits nude photos of a former boyfriend, girlfriend, husband or wife in order to trash the other person’s reputation.
I embarked upon an investigation of Moore and his website in January 2012. I randomly chose 25 individuals who had been uploaded onto the site within a 14-day period. Most of these folks were difficult to find. Victims of cyber rape tend to blame themselves, crawl into an emotional fetal position and shut down their above-board online presence. They may close their Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn pages, not realizing that these accounts serve as a partial buffer against the disturbing data from Moore’s site. When all positive information about them vanishes, only the negative remains. It becomes easier for their employer or grandmother to do a Google search and to find the nude photos and offensive comments.
My findings were astonishing: a full 40% of the victims I located had been hacked only days before their photos were loaded onto the site. In most cases, the scam began through Facebook and ended when the thief gained access to the victim’s email account. The hacker did not nab credit card information. He or she seemed to have only one goal: to steal images for “Is Anyone Up?”
One victim had never shown her photos to anyone, nor did she intend to. She had taken the shots in the mirror alone with her cell phone and sent them to her email account in order to store them on her computer. Another victim had emailed her topless photo only to her husband; another had sent her shot only to her doctor. All victims promptly asked Moore to remove the illegal material from his website; he would not. Although the victims owned the copyright (in that they had taken the shots of themselves), they registered the pictures with the US Copyright office in Washington, DC, and their lawyers sent “cease and desist letters” (DMCA takedown requests) to Moore; he ignored these as well.
In addition to the “hacked” victims, I found three people (a full 12% of my sample group) who claim their names and faces are posted next to nude bodies that are not actually theirs. “If my ex-husband finds out, I will lose custody of my children,” a middle-aged woman wept into the phone. “I have sent 20 letters to Hunter Moore. It’s not me. He won’t take the photos down; and I don’t know what to do.” Toronto Maple Leaf hockey player Mike Zigomanis (who was not part of my investigation) also claims that the faceless penis pictures next to his name on the website are of someone else. The scandal is negatively affecting his career; a Google search with Zigomanis’ name plus the word “nude” garners 30,000 results.
Through my investigation, I found nine victims of revenge porn (36% of my test group) and three “self-submits” (12%). “Self-submits,” of course, are not victims at all; they are individuals who willingly sent their images to Moore. In the end, it was disturbing to learn that over half of the folks from my sample group were either criminally hacked or posted next to body parts that were not theirs. In addition, copyright infringement on the site was pervasive. Besides the nude shots, it was clear that many fully clothed photos were owned by professional photographers and media outlets.
Moore is not the only cyber rapist in town. IsAnybodyDown.com and WalktheShame.com have popped up in recent weeks, no doubt with hopes of elbowing in on some of Moore’s profits. With an increase in “life ruining” sites, there will no doubt be an increase in victims.
Although I thought the recently-shelved Stop Internet Piracy Act (SOPA) was problematic; I urge Congress to draft an amendment, which I call “SOPA: SEX.” This legislation would pertain only to images and videos depicting nudity or sex; and it would require websites to immediately remove questionable material (when alerted about copyright infringement) until a court rules on the issue.“SOPA-SEX” legislation would shift the burden onto website operators, and away from cyber rape victims, who today must embark upon a costly race against the fast-paced web in an effort to preserve their reputation. With passage of “SOPA-SEX,” naked and copyrighted images would not multiply in the cyber sphere for weeks (or months) while lawyers attempt to haul Hunter Moore and his ilk into court. “SOPA-SEX” would be supported by Silicon Valley and Hollywood, by Republicans and Democrats, and most of all, by regular Americans. It is an area in which everyone—except predators—can agree.
Let’s end the shame game. Let’s stop cyber rape. And let’s make Hunter Moore find a new career.