The drama just keeps unfolding in the Ashley Madison leak. After two suicides were linked to the website hack now comes the revelation that the majority of the women on the site didn't actually exist.
And that spells bad news for the millions of males who signed up hoping for discreet encounters and extramarital affairs with women, turns out they were unknowingly participating in the world's biggest sausage fest, which is almost as shaming as their name appearing on the hacked list.
Gizmodo sifted through the data that was released by hacking group the Impact Team to discover just how many of the female accounts were active. Firstly, let's get the figures that were presented. Initially it was thought that around 31 million men and around 5.5 million women.
But after Gizmodo looked in detail at the accounts, it found something wasn't right:
The more I examined those 5.5 million female profiles, the more obvious it became that none of them had ever talked to men on the site, or even used the site at all after creating a profile. Actually, scratch that. As I’ll explain below, there’s a good chance that about 12,000 of the profiles out of millions belonged to actual, real women who were active users of Ashley Madison.
When you look at the evidence, it’s hard to deny that the overwhelming majority of men using Ashley Madison weren’t having affairs. They were paying for a fantasy.
As the Gizmodo writer Annalee Newitz points out, it's like some dystopian future, where desperate men chat to bots and algorithms, immersed in a fictive world where 1 and 0s have replaced real human relationships. "Like a science fictional future where every woman on Earth is dead, and some Dilbert-like engineer has replaced them with badly-designed robots." is how Newitz perfectly puts it.
And that's not all, because not only were there fake profiles (and test profiles created by company employees which had been labeled female and kept active), but the website gamed these fake profiles to make it look like Ashley Madison was a fertile ground of infidelity, when in fact it was just desperate men being manipulated.
One thing Newitz uses to find out how many women were actually on the site for real is to analyse user activity: whether they checked messages, chatted on IM, or replied to men who had contacted them. What she finds isn't good news for the site. "Overall, the picture is grim indeed." Newitz writes. "Out of 5.5 million female accounts, roughly zero percent had ever shown any kind of activity at all, after the day they were created."
Image via Gizmodo
So no activity, yet still they appeared active. Hmmm.
Ashley Madison employees did a pretty decent job making their millions of women’s accounts look alive. They left the data in these inactive accounts visible to men, showing nicknames, pictures, sexy comments. But when it came to data that was only visible on to company admins, they got sloppy. The women’s personal email addresses and IP addresses showed marked signs of fakery. And as for the women’s user activity, the fundamental sign of life online? Ashley Madison employees didn’t even bother faking that at all.
It's a pretty damning report, one that if the figures hold up shows that the whole site was basically one big scam.
So remember this people, in the future, when you are on the internet (or anywhere now i think about it), if something looks just too good to be true, chances are it isn't. So ends my sermon for today.
Go read the whole story over at Gizmodo.