While the exploits and embarrassments of Avid Life Media’s CEO Noel “Down With Cyberterrorism” Biderman, founding CTO Raja “We Don’t Even Do That” Bhatia, and anyone else pretending to defend the objectionable infosec and privacy practises of Ashley Madison’s extramarrital dating website have been expounded elsewhere, and ad nauseum, with ALM’s staunch refusal to close its doors and the subsequent liberation of user data by The Impact Team, it has come to light that Ashley Madison was a digital platform as necrotic and manipulative as anything Sillycon Valley has sold to unsuspecting victims of the “make money while you sleep” predilection, be it Facefraud, Twatter, or otherwise.
This being said, while the usual SV-VC brigade of rampant criminality and moral vacuity relies of clickfarmsi operated by Filipinos to artificially imbue itself with any value whatsoever, the Ashley Madison approach is notably different, even if the same nefarious ends are achieved. After all, there’s more than one way to skin a redditard.
Since she’s already done the grunt work, let’s now allow Ms. Annalee Newitz to fill in some of the Ashley Madison-specific gaps and provide some muchly appreciated lulz – well, botlulz to be more accurate :
- Equally clear is new evidence that Ashley Madison created more than 70,000 female bots to send male users millions of fake messages, hoping to create the illusion of a vast playland of available women.
- Ashley Madison’s army of fembots appears to have been a sophisticated, deliberate, and lucrative fraud. The code tells the story of a company trying to weave the illusion that women on the site are plentiful and eager.
- We have absolutely no data recording human activity at all in the Ashley Madison database dump from Impact Team. All we can see is when fake humans contacted real ones. In other words, the dramatic discrepancy between men and women is entirely because Ashley Madison’s software developers trained their bots to talk almost exclusively to men.
- In the database dump from Impact Team, all we can see is the ample evidence that male users were contacted by bots pretty much constantly. Those data fields tell us that 20 million men out of 31 million received bot mail, and about 11 million of them were chatted up by an automated “engager.”
- Once the man struck up a conversation, the bot would say things like this: “Hmmmm, when I was younger I used to sleep with my friend’s boyfriends. I guess old habits die hard although I could never sleep with their husbands” and “I’m sexy, discreet, and always up for kinky chat. Would also meet up in person if we get to know each other and think there might be a good connection. Does this sound intriguing?”
- It’s unclear what else the engager would say—either the bots really are this simple, or further chat phrases weren’t in the code. Most likely, based on what I saw from other bot code, the bot would urge the man to pay credits to talk further.
- Ashley Madison aspired to be a global network of people breaking the bonds of monogamy in the name of YOLO. Instead, it was mostly a collection straight men talking to extremely busy bots who bombarded them with messages asking for money.
- That said, a huge portion of Ashley Madison’s software development efforts are aimed at refining their fembot army, to make it seem that women are active on the site. Either they did this because the number of real women was vanishingly small, or because they didn’t want men to hook up with real women and stop buying credits from the company. Whatever the reason, it appears that the Ashley Madison money-making scheme was bots all the way down.ii
Incredibly, these “cheaters,” despite being strung along by transparently simplistic bots, paid hard-earned money for the feeling of having an extra-marrital affair. They didn’t want the real thing – think of the risks! – so the mere act of pretending to flirt with mysterious online girls was more than adequate for these poor men to get their jollies.
And if these boys had to use credit cards and personal billing addresses instead of using Bitcoin on a proper dating website, and this opened up the possibility for their credentials to be leaked, then all the better ! The only thing more deliciously sexy than pretending to cheat is having other people discover, through “no fault of your own” that you’re the kind of guy who cheats (but doesn’t). You enjoy all the benefits of the James Bond fantasy without having to be shot at my evil Russians !! WIN !!!
Clearly, the metatards populating Ashley Madison or Facebook or whatever aren’t to be considered individuated people and can under no circumstances be interacted with as such. Not for lack of want, for lack of possibility. All of which is to say, to quote MP from way, way back in September 2014:
- Looking for opinions of “people” outside of your WoT is an exercise in patent nonsense, because no people exist outside of your WoT.
- The input on any topic provided by someone meaningless to you is meaningless to you. It’s not that you’d be wasting your time trying to integrate such input, it’s that you demonstrably can’t even understand what the fuck it’s supposed to mean. You’re about as likely to come to something sensible by inserting randomly generated strings, or in other words the assumption that other people’s communication presents itself in plain text is nonsensical, unwarranted and generally dangerous.
So no, the WoT is not optional. Not for productive people and not on the Internet at any rate. Perhaps if you’re doing that primal, salt-of-the-earth, living-off-the-land, hippie indigenous thing where you trade cabbage for your neighbour’s potatoes then you’ll be fine, and if so, go, enjoy. Just keep to yourself and try to find a patch of bare earth where you’ll never come into contact with superior culture. I’m sure you’ll be right as rain. It’ll work for as long as it does.iii And if you’re lucky, and I mean really incredibly lucky, you’ll eke out more than a generation in that un-Wasserklosseted wilderness and it will be someone else’s problem when the inevitable comes home to roost, even if that “someone” just so happens to be your unfortunate descendant.
In summa : The aforementioned botlulz reaffirm that there is no culture, certainly not on the Internet and certainly not going forward for humanity, but the WoT : The Culture of Honour.iv
May the best men, and the best culture, win.
___ ___ ___
- If you’re still in the dark as to what a “clickfarm” is, much less why such a thing exists, here are a few excerpts from the New Republic‘s humanised, if tardy, exposé :
Braggs got into onlining in 2011 after a friend who had struck it rich spamming gave him the software to start his own operation. When Braggs’s email spam business failed in 2012, he opened his own click farm, manually forging thousands of Facebook accounts and selling likes from them, incrementally hiring workers as his business grew. When he realized that he could make more money by supplying click farms with the products they needed—i.e., profiles and software to animate those profiles—he reorganized his business.
By July 2013, he was making phone verified accounts—or PVAs—full time. He hired 17 employees, including Casipong, and established round-the-clock shifts so his farm never went dark. Casipong guesses that she makes over 100 Facebook PVAs a day. Other employees average more than 150. Braggs sells PVAs for 70 cents; “premium” PVAs—accounts that are fleshed out with more than bare-bones biographical details—can be bought for $1.50.
Since his business began, Braggs has expanded into Yahoo, Gmail, and Twitter PVAs, and his customers have used the fake accounts in all sorts of scams: On the dating site Tinder, for example, Braggs said he believes seductive women solicited male users for pay-to-access porn sites. His biggest order, he told me, was for Chinese hackers trying to fleece the digital payment exchange Stellar; he hired every freelance worker he could find, but he was still only able to fulfill a small portion of it.
In many ways, Braggs’s account farm operates similarly to the outsourcing and industrial businesses that Cebu City is famous for. He relies on the infrastructure that carries the call center and technical support data to Cebu City from around the globe in order to pipe his forged profiles to his clients. He even benefits from cheap local resources—though instead of exploiting the Philippines’ old-growth rainforest timber, he processes SIM cards dropped off by men on motorcycles, paying a few cents for a card that would sell for $5 to $10 in the United States. Workers willing to do repetitive manual labor are not in short supply, either.
But Braggs’s account farm feels more like a startup than a developing-world sweatshop. Most of his employees are young IT university graduates infused with the excitement of beating the system. There is an office puppy named Hacker, and Braggs pays for a cook to prepare lunch for the employees every day. Casipong earns about $215 a month, significantly more than the minimum wage for a domestic helper, which is as low as $34 a month. Braggs pays his nightshift workers extra, and some of his employees reportedly choose to become nocturnal for the additional wages.
This, dear children, this is what social media is and what it does. Social media has no value and it cannot have any value for the same reasons and in the same ways that its users and abusers have no value and likewise cannot. At the end of the day, you can’t forge a mountain of gold out of a hill of beans. You’re not Jack and you have no beanstalk. And neither does Sillycon Valley.
Social media is exactly as powerful as powerless people allow it to be on themselves. It is not and can never be a weapon for meaningful change against the already powerful because it utterly fails to strike the beast in its underbelly. It’s not Bitcoin.↩
- From another Newitz article :
What we see here are two simple graphs showing how engagers affected revenue in Canada. When the engagers were turned off in early 2011, the company’s income took a nosedive. So did their conversion rate. When they were turned on again 14 months later, revenues and conversions skyrocketed. It appears that revenues went from roughly $60`000 per month, to $110`500. This suggests that the bots were part of Ashley Madison’s strategy to get men to spend money on the site.
- As it did for the Unabomber.↩
Alexander Hamilton, killed in a duel by United States Vice President Aaron Burr in 1804, wrote a letter before the duel explaining why he believed he had to accept Burr’s challenge. Like Theodoros, he referred to the necessity of protecting his reputation, writing that “the ability to be in [the] future useful… would probably be inseparable from a conformity with public prejudice in this particular”. In honor cultures, it is one’s reputation that makes one honorable or not, and one must respond aggressively to insults, aggressions, and challenges or lose honor. Not to fight back is itself a kind of moral failing, such that “in honor cultures, people are shunned or criticized not for exacting vengeance but for failing to do so”. Honorable people must guard their reputations, so they are highly sensitive to insult, often responding aggressively to what might seem to outsiders as minor slights. It might seem that knowing people would respond this way would lead to people to “walk on eggshells” so as to avoid offending others, but this would be a sign of cowardice. So because insulting others helps establish one’s reputation for bravery, honorable people are verbally aggressive and quick to insult others. The result is a high frequency of violent conflict as participants in the culture aggressively compete for respect. Cultures of honor tend to arise in places where legal authority is weak or nonexistent and where a reputation for toughness is perhaps the only effective deterrent against predation or attack. Because of their belief in the value of personal bravery and capability, people socialized into a culture of honor will often shun reliance on law or any other authority even when it is available, refusing to lower their standing by depending on another to handle their affairs.