Tan Mom. “Tiger Blood.” The Royal Wedding. The early 2010s were a treasure trove of cursed cultural relics. Most odious of all was Is Anyone Up?, a revenge-porn website that prided itself on humiliating mostly young women.
The site published nude images that users—usually vengeful exes—could send in via an anonymous submission form. Once they did, a message would pop up saying “THANK YOU FOR BEING EVIL!” What separated Is Anyone Up? from other dark corners of the web was not just its focus on scene girls and guys, but the sheer level of cruelty on display. Accompanying the nude images, most published without the subject’s consent, was a screen grab of the person’s Facebook page, directing a wave of harassment against them. The comments section under each post was filled with fans of the site relentlessly mocking those unfortunate enough to appear, branding them “SIF” (secret internet fatty) or “Gnargoyle” (a term denoting ugliness).
Among the victims was a blind paraplegic and a kindergarten teacher who subsequently lost her job the following morning. Lording over the awful proceedings was Hunter Moore, a scene kid and self-described “king of revenge porn” whose fawning followers, in true Manson fashion, referred to themselves as “The Family.”
“It all started with me hating some dumb bitch who broke my heart, really,” said Moore. “Me and my friends would just post a bunch of girls on Is Anyone Up? We just got a bunch of traffic one day, and I was like, yo, I can make a bunch of money off titties and fucking people over.”
A new Netflix docuseries, The Most Hated Man on the Internet, chronicles the rise and fall of Is Anyone Up?—which, at its height, drew in 350,000 unique visitors a day—and Moore, who was arrested by the FBI and landed behind bars in 2015, and the pissed-off mother responsible for taking him down: Charlotte Laws.
I first crossed paths with Laws in late 2011 while working on a piece on Moore and Is Anyone Up?—in particular, allegations that female victims of his had been hacked. Laws at the time identified herself as an independent investigator who’d been instrumental in getting Moore booted off Facebook.
“I’ve talked to 25 victims within a 14-day period, and about 40 percent of them were hacked,” Laws told me at the time. “Additionally, 12 percent of them were someone else’s head and a different person’s nude body.”
It proved difficult to get any of Moore’s victims to talk on the record—he had a habit of targeting his fellow scene kids, many of whom felt they didn’t have the resources or support to take him on, and also didn’t want to direct eyeballs toward their nude images—so I only managed to include one young woman who said her photos had been hacked in the story, but it ended up being the first published allegation of Is Anyone Up?’s hacking, prompting a phone call from the FBI.
The truth about Laws, meanwhile, was more complicated. Far from an “independent investigator,” she was someone harboring a deep personal grudge against Moore and the site—and for good reason.
Laws was living in Woodland Hills, California, with her husband, Charles, a lawyer, and daughter Kayla, a 24-year-old aspiring actress. One day, she received a call from her daughter, who sounded distraught.
“I was at work [at a restaurant]. I was told there was a phone call for me, and it was the hostess that wasn’t working that night,” Kayla recalls in The Most Hated Man on the Internet. “She says, ‘Hey, I’m really sorry, but…you’re on this website.’ She said it’s called IsAnyoneUp.com. It was basically a website of nude photos. I was wracking my brain, like, what? What photos could they have? How could I be on this website? I don’t understand.”
“Kayla was withdrawn, locked herself in her room, didn’t want to go to work, and just felt shamed, humiliated, exploited, and violated,” Laws tells me. “Her friends found out, everyone at the restaurant she worked at found out—the assistant manager even said, ‘I could get you fired’—and she lost out on an acting role because of it.”
According to Kayla, she took some topless photos of herself in the privacy of her room and didn’t send them to anyone. Since her phone was low on storage—remember, this was the first generation of youngsters with smartphones—she sent them to her email address. One week before her photos ended up on Is Anyone Up?, Kayla had been locked out of her email account and had to reset her passwords in order to regain access. So, Laws, a former private investigator, suspected that her daughter had been hacked. They did some digging and discovered that when she got her account back, there was a secondary Gmail address attached to it, all but confirming the hack.
Not long after, nude photos of one of Kayla’s friends ended up on the site. When Laws reached out to her, the young woman told her that she hadn’t sent the photos to anyone and believed she was hacked. “I realized, ‘I only know two people on this revenge-porn site and they’ve both been hacked, so there’s very likely a hacking scheme going on,’” recalls Laws.
Their first stop was the Los Angeles Police Department, but when they presented their case, the female officer asked Kayla, “Well, why would you take a photo like this if you didn’t want it on the internet?” She next contacted the FBI, who proved far more responsive.
“That was the attitude of society back then,” offers Laws. “You’ve gotta remember: Pretty much everyone thought that way. And law enforcement wasn’t equipped for internet crimes and didn’t really take them seriously.”
Indeed, there’s a scene in The Most Hated Man on the Internet of Greg Gutfeld blaming the women for their nude photos ending up on Is Anyone Up? on his old Fox News show Red Eye.
Around this time, Laws began contacting other victims of Moore, and determined that a large number of them had been hacked.
“I didn’t know anything about this [scene] subculture until my daughter was hacked, and then I learned about revenge porn for the first time,” says Laws. “I was drawn into it, finding out more so that I could help her—and then help the other victims. Hunter Moore’s site was a wall of hatred, and I felt I had to take it apart brick by brick.”
She pauses. “I didn’t even work for two years. All I was doing was counseling victims and trying to get revenge porn off the internet.”
Meanwhile, Moore began attracting media attention. Pieces on him ran in The Daily Beast and The Village Voice, and prior to those, he was featured on Anderson Cooper’s short-lived talk show, on which he was confronted by two women whose photos ended up on the site. Sunlight is the best disinfectant, as they say, and his abysmal performance on Cooper’s show, coupled with Laws’ persistence, officially piqued the FBI’s interest.
But Moore and The Family were willing to do whatever it takes to ensure that their carnival of horrors could continue.
Laws, 62, was born and raised in Atlanta. She was adopted at birth, and, even though she says she came from a family of racists, always felt her mission in life was to “eradicate prejudice”—starting with fighting for civil rights. Locals would regularly call her a “n----r lover” for volunteering to help the Black community.
She suffered a great deal of hardship early in life. Her father was abusive, and her mother died by suicide when Laws was 16. Two years later, her brother died in a car accident. Laws wanted to escape, so she fled to Hollywood. After doing some print modeling and landing a few bit parts in B-movies—under her stage name “Missy Laws”—she started crashing A-list parties, soon earning a reputation as the city’s premier gatecrasher, chronicling her escapades in the 1988 book Meet the Stars. Her promotional tour included stops on Larry King and The Oprah Winfrey Show.
“When I was older, I made the entertainment industry my family,” she says. “And that required crashing events.”
Her gatecrashing ability landed her at events with Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton. She crashed the Secret Service at least four times, but the soiree she’s the most proud of sneaking into was a 2012 Obama fundraiser at George Clooney’s pad in Los Angeles. When Laws pulled her Nissan up to the sprawling home, she was confronted by a line of fancy cars and heavy security. She had to act fast, so she grabbed a Rite Aid bag that was sitting on the passenger’s seat and told the sentries, “I have an emergency pharmaceutical delivery for… Mr. G. Clooney.”
Somehow, the gambit worked.
“There was always a goal,” she says of her gatecrashing days. Laws sweet-talked her way into these well-heeled functions because she wanted face-time with the movers and shakers of the world, telling them about whatever cause she was fighting for that day—civil rights, LGBT rights, or animal rights.
With Moore and Is Anyone Up?, she found a new cause: eradicating revenge porn.
“I don’t think hurting women should ever be a business model,” says Laws. “It was a site about ridiculing, humiliating, and embarrassing women. They didn’t just want nude pictures—they wanted to really, really hurt people. I believe a lot of his followers wanted to drive people to suicide. They had a deep hatred of women.”
As Laws’ crusade kicked into overdrive, she became a target of Moore’s, who was tweeting about her incessantly, and The Family. The threats started with an email that read, “BACK OFF BITCH!” signed “The Family.” More emails and scary letters to her home followed. Her computer was bombarded with viruses, and she started receiving phone calls to the house line of clicks and beeping, as though someone was trying to hack it.
“It was scary, because these were anonymous entities, so you don’t know if these were ex-cons with guns or just kids playing a prank,” she says. A man with long blond hair—who Laws says she thinks she recognized from photos of Moore—would park outside her house all day in a white car, watching her. One day, she snapped. Laws marched out to the guy in the car and shouted “May I help you?!” He looked up at her and zoomed off.
“I bought locks for my gates,” Laws remembers. “I was worried they would kill my animals. I felt like I couldn’t even leave the house in order to guard my animals.”
Moore, for his part, told a Village Voice journalist that he planned on purchasing a gun to kill Laws.
While most people’s takedown requests went nowhere, Laws managed to get Kayla’s photos removed from Is Anyone Up? after applying pressure on Moore’s lawyer. By that point, her daughter and husband felt their fight was over. Laws, however, felt her work wasn’t finished.
“There was a lot of tension in the house,” says Laws. “Once Kayla’s picture was down, she wanted me to drop it, and my husband wanted me to as well. He said I was ‘bringing danger to the house.’ But this wasn’t something I was going to turn my back on. Just because I love my daughter more than the other victims doesn’t mean I don’t care about them. I do.”
Laws had generated a dossier with testimony from over 40 victims of Moore’s, which she handed over to the FBI. It seemed as though the tide was turning—and Laws finally had some backup. She contacted a cybersecurity expert, James McGibney, to look into Is Anyone Up?, and, after conducting a forensic audit—and with the FBI breathing hot on his tail—McGibney managed to convince Moore to sell him the site in April 2012 for $12,000, before redirecting it to an anti-bullying site. Later that year, when Moore threatened to relaunch the site and populate it with previously published nude photos, the hacktivist collective Anonymous crashed his servers and doxxed him.
Moore was arrested by the FBI in January 2014 on charges of aggravated identity theft, conspiracy, and unauthorized access to a protected computer. Also arrested was Charlie Evens, a man living in Studio City, California, who’d self-submitted nude photos to Is Anyone Up? and was hacking people’s accounts on Moore’s behalf. In February 2015, Moore pleaded guilty to aggravated identity theft and aiding and abetting hacking, receiving a two-and-a-half year prison sentence. Authorities also deleted all the data off computers they’d seized from Moore.
In May 2017, Moore was released from prison and has kept a low profile since.
“I think it was too light of a sentence, but I don’t think he wants to go back to jail,” Laws reasons. “I feel bad that he doesn’t use his talents for better use. He was able to gain a large following and command them to do his bidding, like Charles Manson. It would be nice for people who have leadership ability to use them for good instead of for evil.”
On top of her campaign to take down Moore and Is Anyone Up?, Laws has spent the past decade lobbying Congress to enact a federal revenge-porn law. Currently, there are revenge-porn laws in 48 states plus Washington, D.C., though they differ from state to state and some laws are weaker than others. In the early days, she vividly remembers going to meeting after meeting with politicians, and almost none of them had any sympathy for the victims of revenge porn.
“Zero sympathy,” says Laws, sighing. “I met with Adam Schiff in his office and he said he would never support a federal bill on this issue,” (Schiff has since reversed his stance.)
She’s hopeful that the Netflix docuseries will help put pressure on Congress to get a federal law passed to protect people like Kayla, who got married in early July.
“So many people in my life have told me ‘You can’t do this’ or ‘You can’t do that,’” says Laws. I’ve always wanted to prove them wrong.”