After nearly a year of radio silence, the infidelity hookup site Ashley Madison has finally released a statement about what’s next for the company. Among other things, the company’s new executive team admits that it used fembots to lure men into paying to join the site, which promised the men discreet affairs with willing women.
In fall 2015, Ashley Madison made headlines when a hacker or hackers known as Impact Team released massive data dumps from the company’s source code, member databases, and then-CEO Noel Biderman’s e-mail. The member database contained the names of 34 thousand people trying to have extra-marital affairs, and the revelations induced at least one man to commit suicide. In the wake of the data breach, a number of people have filed lawsuits against the company, and the company is currently under investigation by the US Federal Trade Commission.
Last year, as part of an investigation into the data dump, I published a series of articles at Gizmodo exposing how the company used female chatbots called “hosts” or “engagers” to trick men into paying for Ashley Madison’s services. The scam was simple: when a man signed up for a free account, he almost immediately got a chat or private message from a “woman” whose profile showed a few sexy pictures. To reply to his new lady friend, the man had to pay for an account. In reality, that lady was a few lines of PHP code.