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Cheaterville’s James McGibney swaps ‘revenge porn’ for anti-bullying hope

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Will James McGibney’s newest website help fight bullying or make it worse?
Photo: Bill Hughes

Like a lot of things on the Internet, this all began with naked photos. Hundreds, if not thousands, of them, posted publicly at isanyoneup.com, often without the consent of the photographed and linked directly to the subject’s Facebook or Twitter profile. It’s been dubbed “identity porn” and “revenge porn.” Hunter Moore, who created the site just over a year ago, reported making upwards of $13,000 a month in advertising revenue and received more than 500 million page views. Moore vehemently defended his site, perhaps most memorably by responding to a Facebook cease and desist letter with a photograph of his own penis.

Then, in early April, came a change of heart.

Out of nowhere, Moore sold Is Anyone Up to James McGibney, the Las Vegan responsible for cheaterville.com, a website designed to give spurned lovers a platform to publicly call out their cheating or generally unsavory partners by full name and location. McGibney immediately shut down Is Anyone Up and launched bullyville.com in its place, the fourth (and final, he says, for now anyway) site in what might be called his ’Ville Network, which also includes dating website cupidville.com and good-news-centered karmaville.com.

Some were quick to call it a PR stunt, and many, including Forbes, labeled McGibney and Cheaterville “almost as bad” as Moore and Is Anyone Up. Both accusations are dismissed by the former Marine turned businessman, who believes public shaming is fair retribution for the private pain caused by unsavory acts like cheating or giving somebody a sexually transmitted disease.

“If I’d wanted a PR stunt, I would have tied Is Anyone Up to Cheaterville,” says McGibney, adding that his website has never posted naked photos of alleged cheaters, despite consistently receiving them. “What I did was immediately take down [Is Anyone Up]. I did what Anderson Cooper and Facebook couldn’t do.”

It was an appearance on the former that brought McGibney and Moore together and began talks of the buyout. “I told him, ‘This is not a long-term strategy for making money.’ I told him about my idea for Bullyville.”

Moore eventually decided to sell the site for an undisclosed amount described by McGibney as “miniscule” and laughable. In an open letter posted to Bullyville, Moore explained: “I honestly can’t take another underage kid getting submitted and having to go through the process of reporting it and dealing with all the legal drama of that situation.”

Public response was overwhelming and immediate. McGibney says he received 5,000 emails within the first few hours. Weeks later, he says the number has grown to 55,000. Most are grateful. “My ex-boyfriend had pictures of me and was threatening to put me on there,” reads one. “I couldn’t sleep for months, had to delete my Facebook, quit going out and even started seeing a therapist for my anxiety and thought that if I got posted I would commit suicide.”

Others are hostile, the words of people you hope are Internet trolls and nothing worse. “I’m going to bully the sh*t out of a couple of juniors because of you c*nts,” reads part of one such message. “Hopefully they kill themselves.” Others threatened or wished death, rape and cancer upon McGibney and his family.

In response, McGibney is saving the vitriolic messages. He wants to post them on Bullyville. Consider it Phase 2 of the site, which he concedes was built and launched in a rush out of fear Moore might change his mind about the deal. Currently, the site mostly features celebrity “bully stories,” like Jersey Shore star Snooki making a mean comment in a tabloid about the size of Jessica Simpson’s pregnancy belly.

In the same vein as Cheaterville, those bullied on social networks can also post their personal stories through a feature called Bully Blast and call out their tormenters. Bullyville says all incidents “will be 100 percent verified as true before going live on our website,” though it isn’t specified how the verification will occur.

Whether the truly bullied, especially those in the already fragile circus that is high school, will have the courage to go public in such a manner is questionable. Likewise, a greater debate looms on whether the site might only compound instances of bullying and make things worse for the very people it’s designed to help.

McGibney doesn’t think it will. He feels his new site provides a service not currently available, even with the influx of attention the anti-bullying issue has received by advocates, politicians and mainstream media.

“You can’t just provide a bunch of links to resources,” he says. “That doesn’t do anything at the granular level. You can read relatable stories, sure, but bullying is an immediate problem. How is that person going to get immediate results? Bullies need to be held accountable.”

This attitude of swift, direct action reflects McGibney’s approach to life. When a woman claimed on the Cheaterville-like liarscheatersrus.com to have slept with the happily married McGibney in a Marriott in Los Angeles two weeks before his Anderson appearance, the first comment was McGibney’s—offering $25,000 for proof he says he knew didn’t exist. He is not afraid of confrontation or of defending his growing company.

Moore wasn’t either, but McGibney doesn’t see the same limited success in his burgeoning company, which has amassed 13 employees since it launched Valentine’s Day 2011.

“[Is Anyone Up] was pissing on the Constitution,” McGibney says. “We are protected the same way Facebook and Twitter are. … Yes, the Internet has a deep, dark side, but I believe we are doing good.”

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