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The company suffered a massive hack that exposed the profiles of an estimated 3.5 million members — which generated international headlines by revealing high-profile kink-seekers on Capitol Hill, in Hollywood and higher education.
"I don't know if I can disclose this," Conru says, "but recently, I had a guy do a search to see, like, White House.gov, and we found that there are lots of .govs, and a lot of "The company incentivizes members to prove they're who they say they are by sending in copies of their drivers licenses in return for a "verified" button on their profiles (similar to the little blue checks on Twitter accounts).
"' Let me go ahead and put in my credit card information.'"Russell paid 0 for 1,000 credits, which he could spend on sending replies or virtual gifts. After a few months of rejection, he didn't bother to log back on Ashley Madison again.
Last July, he found out that he wasn't the only one getting the silent treatment.
A whopping 59 percent of all online traffic — not just dating sites — is generated by bots, according to the tech analyst firm, Are You a Human. Spammers are using them to lure victims on Tinder, according to multiple studies by Symantec, the computer security firm.
Whether you know it or not, odds are you've encountered one. "The majority of the matches are often bots," says Satnam Narang, Symantec’s senior response manager. Keeping the automated personalities at bay has become a central challenge for software developers.
These programs can be modified for any purpose, though designing a believable online dating companion can take considerable time and effort — perhaps too much for some of the troops at Ashley Madison.
In 2012, Doriana Silva, a former Ashley Madison employee in Toronto, sued Avid Life Media for million complaining that she suffered from repetitive strain injury while creating over 1,000 sexbots — known within the company as "Ashley's Angels" — for the site.
Bloggers poured over the data, estimating that of the 5.5 million female profiles on the site, as few as 12,000 were real women — allegations that Ashley Madison denied. Bots are infiltrating just about every dating service.
Internal documents leaked during the Ashley Madison hack detail how, according to a 2013 email from managing director Keith Lalonde to then-CEO Noel Biderman, the company improved sex machine production for "building Angels enmass [sic]." This was done, Lalonde wrote, because the staff was getting "writers block when making them one at a time and were not being creative enough." (Reps for Ashley Madison did not return requests for comment).
According to leaked emails, to create the bots, the staff utilized photos from what they described as "abandoned profiles" that were at least two years old.
The fact that men outnumber women on the site's heterosexual platform ten-to-one is just life, they figure, and the women on the site are seemingly active enough to keep the guys onboard.
For AFF, bots are a cop out, though the appeal of building them is obvious enough to Conru.
But what's truly phenomenal is the durability of this online hustle, and the millions of saps still falling for it.