“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 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.
“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.
It’s the dirtiest secret of the billion online dating business and it stretches far beyond Ashley Madison.
“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.
But what’s truly phenomenal is the durability of this online hustle, and the millions of saps still falling for it.
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.
They also generated 10,000 lines of profile descriptions and captions.
“It’s been a cat and mouse game for 20 years.” And it’s not a game he always wins.
The company suffered a massive hack that exposed the profiles of an estimated 3.5 million members — which generated international headlines by revealing high-profile kink-seekers on Capitol Hill, in Hollywood and higher education.