Warning: Some readers may find some of the subject matter in this story disturbing.
Revenge-porn king Hunter Moore is the Most Hated Man on the Internet. He routinely jokes about AIDS on Twitter, posts “educational” videos on YouTube like “How to Have Sex With a Cripple,” and proudly admits to being stabbed in the shoulder by one of his revenge porn victims.
But, in a strange twist, Moore also happens to be one of the Internet’s most beloved figures. He’s loved so widely that his 8,000-plus devotees have even begun using their own hashtag, #TheFamily, to keep up with one another. In #TheFamily, the patrilineage is clear: Moore’s followers are his “children.” And Moore—the semi-employed 27-year-old part-time DJ—is #TheFather.
One of the strangest parts of the #TheFamily is the control Moore seems to hold over his minions, getting them to do absurd things in real life and post pictures of their exploits on Twitter. One recent request came last week, when Moore tweeted: “When your friends pass out tonight, put a dirty condom on their face and take a picture. #snakeskin.”
At least half a dozen did just that, and posted the photo evidence. (Click at your own risk.)
Of course, the requests get far more graphic. We’ll spare you the pictorial evidence, but they all begin with a challenge via Twitter:
#TheFamily relishes Moore’s ability to inspire action. ”The craziest thing I witnessed is he had a girl Vine herself masterbating [sic] for a shirt. She did it, even had her face in the video,” one of the members of #TheFamily, @NiggasBeLike13k, tells me.
Another family member, Austin Wright, a 19-year-old forklift operator who has a tattoo of #TheFamily on his leg, was quick to tell me his favorite Hunter Moore conquests. “That I’ve seen?” he says. “Prob eat their own shit. Or suck their moms dildos.”
If you don’t believe, click on a stream of #TheFamily on Twitter, and see for yourself. There are hundreds of thousands of tweets, so budget some time. And you might want to camp out in a private room—it’s mostly NSFW.
Plenty of journalists have tried to place themselves in the world of Hunter Moore to understand why he does what he does. Rolling Stone reported on what Moore dreams about; The Village Voice watched him party. Vice talked with him on the phone and asked him if he is “sex-obsessed.” (“No,” he said. “Fuck, I’d need a defibrillator on my dick to keep going. It’s fun to me. I don’t really take it very seriously. I like making fun out of people, so it’s not about the sex, it’s about the chase and the story.”)
Moore’s legal troubles, like getting investigated by the FBI and being sued for $250,000, have been well-documented as well.
But for all that’s written about Moore—all the polemics about his persona—little attention has been paid to the people that actually make him relevant.
How We Know:
To get a handle on the sheer size of "The Family," we first made a list of the tweeters who self-identify as Moore's "children"—those who have "#TheFamily" in their Twitter bios. There are a number of programs and third-party analytics providers that allow you to target your searches on Twitter, but you can also hone your Twitter research using a few specific parameters, which we did. We also ran searches using a few other pieces of software built to parse out demographic details (like gender and location) from Twitter user profiles.
Hunter Moore’s virtual family is huge. According to our analysis of Moore’s Twitter following, 8,027 users have #TheFamily in their Twitter bios (4,346 are male, 1,577 are female, and the rest are unknown), while 123 users have Moore’s handle, @HunterMoore, in their own Twitter bio—a coveted space usually reserved for one’s personal information. But that does not even scratch the surface of how much actual reach #TheFamily has.
On a single day in July 2013, for instance, #TheFamily was mentioned nearly 1.5 million times on Twitter. Broken down by state, #TheFamily is most active in California, Texas, Ohio, Florida, Michigan and New York. Moore’s own account, @HunterMoore, is roughly comparable in reach to the Twitter account of Charlie Sheen. Last year he had 50,000 followers. Today he has nearly 550,000.
In speaking with various members of #TheFamily, and spending nearly a week combing through tweets, it becomes very apparent that there isn’t one identifiable reason people affiliate themselves with #TheFamily. Plenty of guys do it for the constant stream of nudes photos. Others do it because they think Moore is a god. Some do it to gain Twitter followers and get noticed, while others do it simply because they think it’s funny. Life can be boring when you’re a teenager; #TheFamily offers a bit of an escape.
Moore has his own views.
“Well it started as a joke because when I first was getting really popular, people would be like, ‘Oh, he’s a god! He’s a god!,’” Moore says, speaking with me recently over the phone. “And then I started having people call me The Father, just fucking around, because it was so ridiculous. And you know, it’s just like a troll thing. For laughs, and whatever.”
“And then, honestly, I have no fucking idea, the thing is my whole fan base are whole community. They come up with all this shit. So they started hashtagging #TheFamily, but it’s really just, I don’t even know how to explain it. It’s more like a state of mind. It’s so fucking weird, it’s like—you have to understand it, like, if you really live on the Internet, these kids live on the Internet.”
Moore isn’t known for being particularly eloquent, so I decided to ask a few of #TheFamily members about life in #TheFamily. What, exactly is the point of #TheFamily, I wondered, and why do people seem to worship #TheFather and do what he asks of them?
I started with a 19-year-old woman who goes by #TheMother on Twitter. As I learned throughout our conversation, which I conducted over Twitter Direct Message (it seemed apropos enough), #TheMother seemed to take personal inspiration from #TheFather.
After #TheMother, I spoke with a 21-year-old from Chicago whose Twitter handle is @EveryonesFavBro, whose leisure activities include “Night Clubs, Drinks, Xbox…and a part of
#TheFamily.” He also makes the enigmatic claim in his Twitter profile that “we are not a cult so follow our father @Huntermoore.”
When I suggested that Hunter Moore is loathed by many people because he posted compromising photos of thousands of women on the internet against their will—and then gloated about it and even profited handsomely—Everyone’s Fav Bro seemed to become irritated.
(I could not find any mentions on the Web of Moore raising money for a girl in a car accident.)
Another member of #TheFamily, Venus, a 19-year-old girl from a small town in Kentucky, seemed pretty non-chalant about the Moore’s entrepreneurial past. She even calls him “caring.”
Ah, his music. Moore is now a DJ. His latest album, Thank You Father, includes tours de force like “The Church of Twerk,” whose chorus line is: “She used to go to church now all she do is twerk.”
In November, Moore was set to play an Omaha nightclub, but the promoter canceled the gig because of a backlash on Facebook. ”I don’t want Omaha to have a reputation of supporting him and supporting that kind of culture because I think it’s really toxic,” Greg Harries, one of Moore’s detractors, told a local Omaha TV station. (“I can’t play the midwest anymore,” Moore told me with a laugh when we spoke.)
Another conversation, this time with an 18-year-old T-Mobile sales associate from Philadephia who goes by @NiggasBeLike13k, revealed a greater truth about many of #TheFamily: Some of them readily admit he’s pretty gross.
Brandon, a 25-year-old former Marine and proud member of #TheFamily, claims the group is really just about brotherhood.
But he admits the #TheFather stuff is weird.
“Hunna” is Brandon’s pet nickname for Hunter. Moore’s own Twitter feed is a constant stream of vulgarities, re-tweeted nude photos, jokes and various banalities. (“Hi” seems to be one of his favorite tweets.) He’s a power-tweeter, too, having tweeted nearly 150,000 times since he joined in February 2009.
But, as with all cults, there are the dissenters, those who spurned the community after realizing there was something wrong with it. I spoke with one. She’s 23 and from Chattanooga, and wanted to stay anonymous. “I have now exited myself from the family,” she said. Though she’s still active on Twitter, she no longer tweets at Hunter Moore.
“Basically Hunter is the God of twitter,” she explained to me. “I truly believe if he told someone to kill themselves they wld [sic] do it which again bring [sic] me to the conclusion we have a cult going on right in front of our eyes on twitter an [sic] no one will do anything to stop it.”