‘The Most Hated Man on the Internet’ Review: Netflix’s Hunter Moore Docuseries Is Absorbing but Shallow

Netflix’s The Most Hated Man on the Internet closes by explaining why its title character only ever appears in archival footage. “Hunter Moore initially agreed to take part in this series but later declined our invitation,” the screen reads. “We decided to use his image anyway.”

The irony is thick — considering Moore once catapulted himself to fame by capitalizing on images of unwilling people — and easy to smirk at. Maybe a bit too easy. The docuseries’ three hourlong episodes go by quickly, thanks to its streamlined storytelling and brisk pacing, and it delivers on both the white-hot outrage and the grim satisfaction promised by the downfall of a dude who really had it coming. But The Most Hated Man on the Internet falls short of the ambition needed to lend it real, lasting heft.

The Bottom Line

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Compelling, if a bit limited in scope.

Airdate: Wednesday, July 27
Executive producer: Alex Marengo

Produced by Raw TV (the outfit behind The Tinder Swindler and Don’t F*ck With Cats) and directed by Rob Miller, The Most Hated Man on the Internet begins its story in January 2012, when Kayla Laws, as she now recounts in an interview, first discovered topless photos of herself had been published without her knowledge to Is Anyone Up? For the site, founded by Moore, it was business as usual: Its content largely consisted of anonymously submitted photos, with a particular reputation for featuring revenge porn — i.e., sexually explicit images distributed without the consent of the individuals within them.

In the eyes of Moore and his devoted following, the fact that Kayla and other unwitting subjects had never wanted their photos made public was a feature, not a bug, and their humiliation and distress could be part of the fun. What made Kayla’s case different, however, was what happened next: She turned for help to her mother Charlotte Laws, whose crusade on behalf of her daughter would eventually expand to include dozens of other victims and a full-blown FBI investigation.

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What follows is presented, more or less, as a tale of good versus evil. On one side are Moore and his devoted followers, who seem to relish playing the villains: “If someone killed themselves over being on Is Anyone Up?, do you know how much money I’d make?” Moore is heard gloating in one undated interview. On the other are his targets and their defenders. The framing makes The Most Hated Man on the Internet incredibly easy to follow, even as the docuseries weaves in interviews with perhaps half a dozen victims, and even as the campaign against Moore brings in heavy-hitters like the hacker group Anonymous.

At the same time, the series is sensitive about detailing the experiences of Kayla and others like her. In a pointed contrast to the victim-blaming echoed by many others, then and now — “Why would you take a picture like that if you didn’t want it on the internet?” Kayla remembers one police officer asking her — the series listens without judgment. One of the most wrenching accounts comes from Destiny, known to Is Anyone Up? fans as “Butthole Girl,” who recalls how she was manipulated through threats and promises into creating content for the site that she hoped might earn her some money. “I never got any money from Hunter ever,” she says now, adding dryly, “But he did offer me a t-shirt.”

Likewise, it’s shrewd about laying out just enough backstory for its heroes to both reinforce the roles they wound up playing in the saga, and to establish them as individuals with lives outside of it. In a particularly amusing episode-two reveal, for instance, we learn Charlotte was briefly famous in the 1980s for her success as a party crasher. The anecdote repositions Charlotte as more than merely a concerned mother, while also underlining the fearlessness and tenacity she brings to the war she’s waging on behalf of her daughter.

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In comparison, the series makes little attempt to understand Moore’s psychology or explain his biography. To The Most Hated Man on the Internet, it doesn’t matter why he is the way he is, or why he did what he did — what matters is the impact he had. It’s a savvy choice that prevents Moore’s perspective from eclipsing those of the people he wronged, and that denies him the lurid fascination he built so much of his notoriety around.

But if there’s a downside to The Most Hated Man on the Internet‘s taut focus on the takedown of Moore and his site, it’s that it leaves little room for anything but that. There’s not much insight given into the cultural context surrounding the rise and fall of Is Anyone Up?, even as the tale cuts through urgent, complicated conversations about misogyny, the attention economy and our evolving social and legal understanding of online harassment. At one point, someone describes Hunter as “the first internet troll,” a patently bizarre exaggeration considering that (to name but one example) 4chan had been founded roughly a decade before Is Anyone Up?

The lack of curiosity gives The Most Hated Man on the Internet a slightly disposable quality. Moore’s story is one that received plenty of attention at the time (including in Village Voice and Rolling Stone profiles discussed in the docuseries) and one that will surely be explored again and again as we continue to look back on a pivotal era for online culture. But it’s difficult to imagine this will be the definitive telling of it, when it has so little to say about what any of it meant in a larger sense.

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As a docuseries aimed at somewhat internet-savvy viewers in 2022 about events that transpired a decade earlier, however, it goes down easy precisely because it steers clear of the bigger picture or the finer nuances in favor of a simpler, more satisfying and ultimately more familiar arc. “Revenge is never pretty. But when it’s done meticulously, intelligently, psychotically, it sure is a thing of beauty,” one person says of Hunter’s comeuppance. It’s hard not to echo the smile on his face — it really does feel good in the moment. A little less beauty and a little more mess, though, might have served the saga better in the long run.

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