One of the Internet’s latest privacy controversies surrounds the rapidly-growing web site Isanyoneup.com. The site, which launched in late 2010, is essentially a hybrid of social media and amateur pornography – described by some media outlets as a blog for “Revenge Porn.” The blog features thousands of posts containing extremely explicit photos of naked men and women, submitted by the site’s users. While self-submit pornography sites aren’t all that uncommon, the real difference with Isanyoneup.com – and the true reason for the firestorm it has caused – is that the majority of the pictures on the site are not submitted by the people in those pictures. Instead, the site serves its purpose as a forum where jilted exes and revenge-seekers may share the most intimate photos of those towards whom they wish to retaliate (perhaps another variant of cyberbullying?). As if that was not enough, the blog has developed over time to include screenshots of the Facebook profiles and Twitter feeds of the people featured on the site.
Interestingly, the site was initially meant to be something much more innocuous. Hunter Moore, the site’s owner, registered the domain to serve as a would-be nightlife and traveling portal. However, Moore grew complacent and the project failed to launch – and its current iteration began one night with Moore attempting and failing to send explicit photos of a woman to one of his friends, and then being inspired to upload the photos to his then-dormant web site. The site soon became a private place for Moore and his friends to add and share similar photos of various women, until eventually a member of a popular online message board stumbled upon the site and began linking it to others (which of course resulted in an explosion of web traffic). The site’s popularity was further fueled when Moore got the idea to include explicit photographs of popular band members, create a Twitter and Facebook page for the site, and feature gimmicks such as the “daily gnargoyle” – posts which feature particularly unattractive self-submitted photos.
As if a site of this nature does not attract enough controversy, the site’s operator seems to relish in all the negative attention he and his site obtains. Moore routinely posts Facebook messages and screenshots of the Twitter responses from people lambasting him for his actions on his website. Recently Moore was featured on Forbes, in articles in Gawker and the LA Times, and even was in a segment on Anderson Cooper’s day-time talk show “Anderson” where he was confronted by two of the women who were featured on his site. In the latter interview, Moore expressed no remorse over his actions and stated that he enjoys what he does as he gets to profit from “seeing naked girls all day.” Additionally, Moore has been threatened with countless lawsuits – which he frequently makes fun of on his site and Twitter feed – and in one case Moore was even stabbed outside of his San Francisco home by a woman who had been featured on the site without her permission. Moore proudly uploaded a picture of his stab wound – and now does not allow submissions of people who live in his hometown of San Francisco anymore.
Despite the site being horrifically repulsive on several levels, Isanyone.com has managed to build a substantial and loyal fan base, with much of that popularity likely being the result of Moore and his controversies. On December 8th, Facebook sent Hunter Moore and Isanyoneup.com a Cease and Desist letter demanding that all relevant Facebook content be removed from the site. Facebook went further by permanently banning Moore, his web site, and anyone acting on his behalf from accessing Facebook. Moore no longer has the ability to link Facebook profiles to his blog posts, but continues to post screenshots of the Facebook profiles of the people he features on his site. In consistently controversial fashion, Moore has alleged he replied to Facebook’s Cease and Desist request with a picture of his genitalia.
As Facebook’s actions indicate, Isanyoneup.com has garnered a fair amount of legal attention. Moore claims he is threatened with lawsuits every day, but to date none have actually been filed in a court. As Kashmir Hill of Forbes has speculated, Moore may have been able to avoid legal ramifications thus far due to the Communications Decency Act of 1996. The relevant part of this Act is section 230, which protects site owners and ISPs from the content that is provided by their users. For instance, if a Facebook user makes a discriminatory wall post on the site, Facebook generally cannot be held liable. As far as Isanyoneup.con and Hunter Moore are concerned, they have thus far avoided liability because the problematic content on the site is uploaded by his users via a submission form.
All of this is not to say that users are unable to protect themselves. As Hunter Moore himself has argued, the best way to defend yourself from ending up on Isanyoneup.com is not to take such explicit photos in the first place. While that may be ideal, in reality people are apt to make mistakes, and as such those featured on Isanyoneup.com have a couple forms of recourse. First, victims of the site are able to submit copyright takedown requests as long as they were the original owners of the photograph. One would qualify as an original owner as long as they took the picture himself or herself. For example, if a young woman took an explicit photo and forwarded it to someone who then uploaded the photo on Isanyoneup.com without her permission, the young woman could submit a copyright claim to the site, forcing the site to remove the picture or allowing the woman to file a copyright claim suit. Second, the Isanyoneup.com web site also includes a ‘Contact’ tab which allows those featured on the site to simply ask to be removed. There is no guarantee that this will actually result in the relevant photographs being removed, however, as some people have claimed in interviews that their removal requests have gone repeatedly ignored by Moore.
Outside of the aforementioned copyright claims, adults have little other recourse if they end up being featured on the site. Fortunately, minors are given much more consideration by Isanyoneup.com and Hunter Moore than adults are. An LA Times piece on Moore claims that his site goes to great lengths to protect minors, and all signs seem to point to this being true. Submissions to Isanyoneup.com are sent to a separate cloud server where a sample blog post is automatically generated but not actually posted online, where it is then investigated by Moore or one of his volunteers. Moore claims background checks are then performed on all subjects to determine whether they may be minors, as all submissions include Facebook profiles for which they can be cross-referenced. The site itself posts strict and clear warnings about underage content, and claims to forward the personal information of those that submit child pornography to the relevant authorities. In true Isanyoneup.com fashion, the submission page of the site includes a Facebook profile screenshot – including all of the personal information – of a man who submitted underage content to Isanyoneup.com.
Despite the obvious problems that the readers of our blog will have with Isanyoneup.com, the site is – from what we can tell – on solid legal footing. Moore and his site are not actually violating any laws as all content featured on the site is submitting by its users, the site responds to formal copyright claims by removing copyrighted photographs, and it protects itself from liability by storing initial submissions on separate servers and weeding out child pornography. For those that wish to avoid becoming just another featured blog post on Isanyoneup.com, Hunter Moore himself said it best: don’t take the photographs to begin with, and certainly don’t put them into the hands of people you can’t entirely trust.
A great piece by The Awl.com on Hunter Moore and his web site:
A few Forbes articles on Hunter Moore and Isanyoneup.com:
Los Angeles Times piece on Hunter Moore on the band members exposed on his site:
Gawker “Facebook Declares War on Sleazy Revenge Porn Site”:
Two short clips from Hunter Moore on Anderson Cooper’s show: http://ohnotheydidnt.livejournal.com/64582249.html