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.
"It's really difficult to find them," says Ben Trenda, Are You Human's CEO.
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.
(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).
"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.
In 2012, Doriana Silva, a former Ashley Madison employee in Toronto, sued Avid Life Media for $20 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.
"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.
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.