• Film

Docs: “The Most Hated Man on the Internet” Connects As Prosecutorial Entertainment

The internet, and in particular social media, is regarded widely and not incorrectly as a machine for perpetual outrage. And yet sometimes that outrage is entirely justified, and worth indulging. A showcase example of this axiom arrives in the form of the new three-episode nonfiction Netflix series The Most Hated Man on the Internet, an entirely engaging if somewhat empty-calorie piece of prosecutorial entertainment that pushes and pulls levers of emotional response by spotlighting a great deal of plain-sight, objectively terrible behavior.

The main villain in question? Twentysomething professional partier and provocateur Hunter Moore, who beginning in 2010 leveraged a low-rent website powered by anonymously submitted nude photos, IsAnyoneUp.com, into a lucrative personal brand. In a cesspool of course, boastfully misogynistic “dude-bros,” Moore quickly distinguished himself as a true sewer king, including direct links to the social media accounts of people in posted photos and actively encouraging and participating in their humiliation, denigration, and even harassment. In detailing the birth of the concept of “revenge porn,” The Most Hated Man on the Internet also illuminates the business model of web-based sociopathy. (Worth noting here: while director Rob Miller’s series contains some lewd images, they are sourced with consent, and used to recreate the website; to protect victims, no images were used from the original IAU.)

The documentary’s first episode chiefly introduces its crusading victims-turned-heroines. Twenty-four-year-old Kayla Laws is an aspiring actress living at home with her mom and stepdad to save up money. When she turns up on IAU, in a topless photo she sent only to her own private email when her phone ran out of data storage space, she is mortified. For support she turns to her mother Charlotte, who attempts, politely at first, to get Moore to take down her daughter’s pictures. When rebuffed, Charlotte morphs into a fiercely determined antagonist — part private investigator, part activist.


The rest of the debut episode introduces Kirra Hughes, Moore’s ex-girlfriend; Destiny Benedict, a young single-mother who became famous as “Butthole Girl” within the site community; and a couple members of “The Family,” part of an army of attention-seeking IAU devotees, eventually directed as swarm of online harassers (sound familiar?) by their toxic, narcissistic ringmaster. After showing the fallout, both emotional and occupational, on various people doxxed by IAU, this first portion concludes with Kayla’s attorney stepfather Charles delivering a successful ultimatum to Moore’s lawyer.

The second episode chronicles a remorseless appearance by Moore on The Anderson Cooper Show, and finds Charlotte doggedly continuing her mission, speaking to 40 other victims and finding out that 16 of them never sent their private pictures to anyone. It also introduces Village Voice journalist Camille Dodero, who shadowed Moore for an April 2012 profile, and two additional heroes in the form of FBI cyber-division agent Jeff Kirkpatrick and James McGibney, a former Marine with a background in cybersecurity who’s adopted an avenging angel persona when it comes to holding to account those who would mistreat others, whether physically or emotionally.

As the former goes about methodically building a criminal case centered around Moore’s complicity in hacking, McGibney shares his own history with adolescent targeting and abuse in a shockingly direct manner, and recounts his crafty scheme to buy Moore’s site out from under him and redirect it to Bullyville, an anti-bullying non-profit organization.

Episode three finds Moore on his back foot. As the specter of legal consequences seemingly looms, he works as a traveling deejay. Addicted to the attention of his cultish fans, Moore claims his sale of IAU to McGibney was a “troll move.” He even starts making plans for a comeback, which draws the attention of decentralized hacker collective Anonymous.


Director Miller indulges some of the usual space-filler of this true-crime sub-genre, including recreated emails and text messages and the like, while leaning on abundant archival material to flesh out Moore as a character. It’s an unflattering portrait, true, but one that can scarcely be dismissed, given the sheer volume of repugnant bloviation in which Moore engages in his own voice, across radio and TV interviews as well as his own social platforms. From his earliest days (the IAU website, when photos are uploaded, displays a message which reads, “Thanks for being evil!”) to later, gleeful boasts that a planned new website will contribute to murders and/or suicides, Moore presents as a sociopath — someone who simply gets off on unleashing a firehose of bile against strangers, free of any repercussions.

For reasons somewhat understandable, the series wildly undersells Charlotte’s own colorful personal history, touching only on her celebrity-chasing history with party-crashing (and book about the same) in a somewhat cringe-inducing one-minute segment in the second episode. This makes sense; there’s no compelling reason to cast aspersions on her character. But The Most Hated Man on the Internet isn’t much interested in a deeper excavation of this as a motivating impulse for at least some of her pursuit of Moore, preferring instead to embrace the more palatable “protective mama bear” narrative.

Miller is also not very interested in big-picture trends, despite a readily apparent straight line from the dark, willfully destructive urges of Moore to, for example, the equally ghoulish if more conspiratorial impulses of Sandy Hook denier Alex Jones, among others. A more ambitious series could or would have aimed to connect more dots between this one particular story and an overall fraying of societal decency, as witnessed elsewhere online.

In exploring this noxious and sociopathic criminal, The Most Hated Man on the Internet tells a straightforward story — one that amply activates the anger centers of any sensibly empathetic person. Moore hurt people for nothing but his own gain, and in some cases amusement. He comes across as the latest iteration of former Girls Gone Wild mogul Joe Francis. Sadly, there will probably be more like him. And when their stories are told, docuseries viewers will likely be incensed all over again.