A hacker group called The Impact Team leaked internal memos from Ashley Madison’s parent company, Avid Life, which revealed the widespread use of sexbots — artificially-intelligent programs, posing as real people, intended to seduce lonely hearts like Russell into paying for premium service. The strangers hitting you up for likes on Facebook? And, like many online trends, this one’s rising up from the steamier corners of the web.
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.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.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.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.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.