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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.
They also generated 10,000 lines of profile descriptions and captions.
"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).
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.
D., boot up the site of a top competitor, Fling, and demonstrate how, shortly after registering, they are wooed by what appear to be bots. "We doubt it really is Megan Summers." In an email, Fling owner Abe Smilowitz writes, "We absolutely don't use fake profiles and bots…Us and AFF are pretty much the only guys that don't." This could be true. "We still think they do." To keep out the bots of spammers and hackers on AFF, Conru, who launched the site shortly after getting his doctorate as a means to meet women, codes his own countermeasures and frequently checks user names and IP addresses for veracity.
With a Google image search, one of the women turns out to be pornstar Megan Summers. Any number of spammers and hackers might have created the profile with Summers' photo; it could be a housewife using the likeness to boost her appeal or conceal her identity. "It's a daily slog, going through hundreds of accounts every day evaluating them and deactivating them," he says.
For AFF, bots are a cop out, though the appeal of building them is obvious enough to Conru.
"If I wanted to boost our revenue and move to the Cayman Islands, we could probably double our revenue simply by using bots," he says.
But what's truly phenomenal is the durability of this online hustle, and the millions of saps still falling for it.
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.
The company countersued Silva, alleging that she absconded with confidential "work product and training materials," and posted pictures of her on a jet ski to suggest she wasn't so injured after all.
In the end, about 80 percent of paying customers were contacted by an Ashley Angel.
"It appears they were scamming their users," Conru says.