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When he saw an ad for the dating site Ashley Madison, which boasted 36 million members and the tagline, "Life is short, have an affair," he decided to check it out. Everyday, he received more of these come-ons — until he finally said, "Fuck it." "I'm like, ' Hey, all these women want to talk with me,'" he recalls. As anyone who's dated online knows, this is not entirely unusual. "I just figured they're not interested anymore," Russell says.
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."A lot of people think this only happens to dumb people, and they can tell if they're talking to a bot," says Steve Baker, a lead investigator for the Federal Trade Commission tells me. The people running these scams are professionals, they do this for a living." The scam starts with creating a chat bot, which is easier than you'd think. The Artificial Linguistic Internet Computer Entity, or ALICE, which generates scripts for chatterbots, has been around for decades.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."The only way you can compete with fraud is you let people know it's fraud," he tells me."And it happens across the industry." Conru and AFF's CEO, Jon Buckheit, another Stanford Ph.(Both sides agreed to drop the suits early last year.) Despite the controversy, the company subsequently attempted to streamline its bot-creation process.
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).
"They're not the only ones using fake profiles," says Marc Lesnick, organizer of i Date, the industry's largest trade show. in mechanical engineering design from Stanford, Conru is among the smartest and most respected people in the online dating business.
"It's definitely pervasive." have to to be careful of what I say," Andrew Conru, the founder and owner of Adult Friend Finder, tells me one morning in his corner office high above San Jose. Since he launched AFF in 1995, he's turned the site into a swinger-friendly empire that's discreetly mainstream — boasting over 30 million members who pay $10 a month to find "sex hookups, online sex friends or hot fuck friends." But while Conru has enough millions to retire several times over, he's giving a rare interview to blow the whistle on the widespread use of sexbots in the business.
hristopher Russell owned a small bar in Chesapeake Beach, Maryland, but, like a lot people these days, figured he had better odds hooking up online.
Russell was 40 and going through a divorce, so he wasn't seeking anything serious. Shortly after creating his account, he got an alert that one of them had viewed his profile. In order to see more details and contact her, he had to buy credits.
"You can design a bot to fool fraud detection." But, in the case of a number of dating sites, developers aren't trying to weed out fake profiles — they are tirelessly writing scripts and algorithms to unleash more of them.