How a mother and daughter team took down the self-described king of revenge porn

 

Back in 2010, most people weren’t familiar with the term ‘revenge porn’. It hadn’t yet entered the pop culture lexicon, but over the next eight years it certainly would as everyone from high school students to A-List celebrities fell victim to one of the digital age’s biggest downsides. Arguably the first place the phenomenon was birthed was the website Is Anyone Up?, founded by Hunter Moore. The high school dropout, former band manager and sometimes DJ originally started the site as a type of chat forum, however, its specialty quickly shifted to revenge porn.

As shown in the documentary Hunter Moore: The Revenge Pornographer the site soon exploded from a niche portal shared among scorned lovers, to something Moore claimed grew from 50 hits a day to 100,000. And then, millions. Yet it was one of Moore’s victims, Kayla Law, who realised something was off. Well, besides the fact a topless image of herself had been shared with millions without her consent. Taken in the privacy of her own bedroom and shared with no one, Kayla was puzzled about how her image could end up on the site, along with her social media accounts which saw her harassed and trolled by countless Is Anyone Up? fans. “I didn’t do anything wrong, I didn’t send the photo to anyone, it was literally privately saved in a folder in my emails called ‘my pics’,” says Kayla in the documentary. “They were photos of myself that I wanted to keep because I thought I looked good. I didn’t think they were going to be taken by anyone. It was private … so I was in shock, I didn’t know how to react.”

She turned to her mother, Charlotte Laws, a former journalist, political activist, television presenter and – crucially – private detective. “My daughter was up there and she noticed that one of her friends was up there,” says Charlotte. “So I talked to her friend’s husband and they said they were hacked as well. See, I didn’t know anything about revenge porn until my daughter’s case and then her friend’s case and they were both hacked. So the only two people I knew (it had happened to) in the entire world were hacked people. I thought to myself ‘I wonder how many more hacked people are on Hunter Moore’s website?’” Up until that point, Moore’s response to cease and desist letters sent to him from individuals who had their images shared on Is Anyone Up? without their consent received either no reply at or a recital that he wasn’t doing anything illegal. Technically, he was right: his activities were protected under the Communications Decency Act. Hacking, however, was illegal and a federal crime. “That’s when I started reaching out to all these victims and started contacting people who were depicted on the site to find out how they got on there and doing a study,” says Charlotte, who spent 10 weeks gathering the information. “That’s how I came to learn 40 per cent of the people had been hacked and 12 per cent had been Photoshopped.”

With the information she collated and a growing list of victims who believed they had been hacked illegally, Charlotte went to the Federal Bureau Of Investigation (F.B.I). “The F.B.I initially said ‘just file a report online’ and I knew that meant they were just too busy with other cases and didn’t have time. So I said ‘oh, I see, so you’ll help Scarlett Johansson when she gets hacked but not the everyday person?’” It worked and she was transferred to a detective, while also going to the media to increase the pressure on both Moore and Is Anyone Up? “It was totally a war for me and it became a bigger and bigger war as Hunter Moore learned my identity (tweeted it) and his followers came after me,” says Charlotte. “I got death threats, I got computer viruses.” Kayla adds: “We even had someone come out to the front yard … and he drove by on two separate days.” Yet when an unexpected ally came to the fore – the underground group Anonymous – and offered Charlotte their support, it was all but over. A few weeks later, Moore’s private information was hacked and made accessible to all: his website was hacked, his social security number was made public, and the F.B.I uncovered the man Moore had employed to hack the accounts of “more attractive girls”.

It wasn’t long before Moore was officially arrested by the F.B.I and eventually sentenced to two and half years in prison, with an additional fine of $500,000 for unauthroised access of a computer and aggravated identify theft. “He could not believe the victims had fought back against him,” says Charlotte. “He’s a charismatic leader. He’s like Charles Manson, Charles Manson was a charismatic leader: he gets people to follow him, people to worship him, people to love him.”

Hunter Moore: The Revenge Pornographer airs on SBS VICELAND at 10:05pm Sunday 16 September 2018. The documentary will also then stream at SBS On Demand.

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