How Hunter Moore, revenge porn kingpin, got away with it – until now

Hunter Moore, the founder of a revenge porn empire, was indicted on charges of working with a conspirator to hack into e-mail accounts and steal explicit photos for his now defunct porn site.

By , Staff writer

Rolling Stone once called him “the most hated man on the Internet,” a brash and brazen character who had long defended his right to preside over a revenge porn website, to which he posted nude photos that spurned lovers sent him of their unaware exes.

But Hunter Moore, the so-called kingpin of revenge porn, did not appear to have done anything illegal – until now.

FBI agents arrested Mr. Moore in Woodland, Calif., Thursday, charging him with multiple crimes related to allegedly paying for stolen photos that he then posted to his site. The 15-count indictment also charges another man, Charles “Gary” Evens, with accepting Moore’s payments for allegedly hacking into seven victims’ accounts and stealing the naked pictures he found there.

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The men are charged with conspiracy, seven counts of unauthorized access to a protected computer to obtain information, and seven counts of aggravated identity theft, according to the indictment.

Moore, 27, a highly public revenge porn mogul, is the founder of IsAnyoneUp.com, a website that – before he shut it down in 2012 – posted vengeful exes’ nude photos of their erstwhile girlfriends, boyfriends, wives, husbands, friends, and lovers. Moore also tagged the explicit photos with the ex's full name, profession, and hometown, as well as linked to their social-media profile.

That ensured that the photos would appear in Google searches of the pictured person’s name and, in due course, would be found by new lovers, parents, colleagues, and bosses – a jilted lover’s revenge.

The blowback to Moore’s agenda was immediate and intense. Victims, some of them famous, went to the press with stories of how the plastering of their pictures – sent with an expectation, however ill-advised, of privacy – on the Internet had cost them their jobs, their relationships, their reputation, and their basic sense of self-worth.

Still, so far as the law was concerned, Moore did not appear to have done anything wrong.

In most states, revenge porn victims have little recourse for getting the photos offline, or for pressing charges against those responsible.

California, out of which Moore ran his enterprise, has one of the most progressive policies on the issue, passing a law in October 2013 that sayssomeone who privately takes a consensual photo of another person nude and then purveys the image with vengeful intent can face up to six months in jail and/or a $1,000 fine.

That law, though, does not target all distributors of revenge porn: it does not criminalize distribution of explicit "selfies" that the photo-taker subsequently sent to another person. And, to Moore’s benefit, it does not assign criminality to operators of revenge porn websites, even if the photos it posts are illegal.

Website owners are protected under Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act, which says that site publishers cannot be prosecuted over illegal third-party content on their website.

So, Moore had seemed outside the law – and was brash about making sure that everyone knew it.

In media interviews in 2011 and 2012, Moore had little but expletives for the women who said that his website had upended their lives, and nothing but contempt for the critics of his revenge porn empire. In one interview with CNN's Anderson Cooper, Moore said he had no remorse about his line of work: “Why would I? I get to look at naked girls all day,” he said.

In a series of profiles that appeared in Rolling Stone, the Village Voice, and elsewhere, he presented himself as a high-rolling bad boy, not just distributing porn, but living a self-styled, porn-esque existence flush with lightly-clothed women and never-ending parties.

Then in April 2012, Moore pled a turn of conscience and sold IsAnyoneUp.com to an anti-bullying site, Bullyville.com, telling Rolling Stone at the time that "ruining people's lives with naked pictures wasn't, you know, the ideal job."

The next month, though, Moore let it slip to the Village Voice – and then threatened to burn their office down if they published his remarks, which they did – that he might have more compelling reasons to pull the plug: the FBI was investigating allegations that some of the photos on his porn site were hacked from private computers and that Moore might been involved in the hacking.

Though he acknowledged that some of the photos were in all likelihood obtained through hacking, he said he had never hacked the photos himself, nor had he ordered anyone else to do so.

Yet the FBI investigation turned up a different narrative, spelled out in Thursday's indictment.

Moore is accused of making an initial offer to Mr. Evens in October 2011 to pay him $200 per week for his hacking services. According to the indictment, Evens and Moore then engaged in 57 "overt acts" related to the hacking charges over the course of two years. In one, in December 2011, Evens asked Moore for $250 in return for nude pictures of "six guys and six girls."

The indictment names seven victims just by their initials. But one of them, Kayla Laws, an aspiring young actress, has waged a highly public battle against Moore over the last three years. Ms. Laws had told the media that the topless photos of her on the site had not been sent to anyone, but that she had e-mailed them to just herself. She alleged that her e-mail account had been compromised, tipping the FBI off to the hacking.

Moore was characteristically blithe about his arrest on Twitter, tweeting at Justin Bieber, who was arrested earlier this week on DUI and drag-racing charges, “I’m coming to bust you out.”

Before his arrest, Moore had expressed plans to revamp his personal webpage, huntermoore.tv, as a new revenge porn hub, this time pairing nude photos of people with directions to their homes, so that viewers could “stalk” them.

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