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Numbers don't lie. After hackers released the information of millions of Ashley Madison users last week, Gizmodo editor-in-chief Annalee Newitz took a detailed look at the leaked data, and concluded that most of the accounts were fake.
The official numbers from the site showed that 31 million of the accounts belonged to men while 5 million supposedly were linked to females. However, Newitz took a deeper dive into the landscape of Ashley Madison and found that a whopping 10,000 accounts were created with the Ashleymadison.com email, implying that they were test subscriptions. Nine thousand of those 10,000 belonged to women, while the remaining numbers were either categorized as male or no gender specified.
Upon further digging, Newitz realized that Ashley Madison was fueled by a facade of fake accounts. "What I discovered was that the world of Ashley Madison was a far more dystopian place than anyone had realized. This isn’t a debauched wonderland of men cheating on their wives," the tech editor wrote. "It isn’t even a sadscape of 31 million men competing to attract those 5.5 million women in the database. Instead, it’s like a science fictional future where every woman on Earth is dead, and some Dilbert-like engineer has replaced them with badly-designed robots... 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."
Newitz found a "disproportionate number" of fake accounts or test accounts on the site based on three specific data fields: time stamps, chat users, and message responders.
1. Time Stamps
Using the data field of mail_last_time, Newitz found that only 1,492 of the women on the site had ever checked messages, compared to the 20 million-plus men. "It was a serious anomaly," she wrote of the find.
2. Chat Users
Newitz used the field, chat_last_time, to look for how many of the site's women ever used the chat functionality. According to her data findings, only 2,400 of the women ever accessed the function, as opposed to the 11 million-plus men who would use Ashley Madison's chat tool.
3. Message Replies
Finally, Newitz input the field, reply_mail_last_time, which also featured a similar pattern to the previous two findings. She found that only 9,700 of the women had ever replied to a message, versus the 5.9 million men who would do the same.
"Overall, the picture is grim indeed," Newitz concluded. "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. 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.... Either way, we’re left with data that suggests Ashley Madison is a site where tens of millions of men write mail, chat, and spend money for women who aren’t there."
Of those millions of male users on Ashley Madison, celebrities like Josh Duggar and Josh Taekman have been exposed for their subscriptions on the website. Both reality stars have issued apologies since their accounts were revealed in the last week.
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