Saturday, January 21, 2017

Leading Website for Married Cheaters Tries to Reinvent Itself

After being hit by a massive data breach in the summer of 2015, Ashley Madison, the website for married people seeking to chest on their mates, is trying to reinvent itself.  As part of their corporate makeover, Ashley Madison’s old slogan “Life is short. Have an affair” has been replaced with the more innocuous “Find your moment.”

The notorious website has shifted its focus from exclusively extramarital affairs, and is now to be “about so much more than infidelity.”  Professing to be “about all kinds of adult dating,” the company is billing itself as a place where couples can explore polyamory together, and where people seeking same-sex relationships can do so safely away from the prying eyes of their personal and professional networks.

What Precipitated the Change?

A devastating chain of events in August 2015 precipitated the major change in direction and total repositioning of Ashley Madison, which boasted revenues of $115 million in 2014.

  • The Infamous Hack
The website made headlines worldwide in the worst possible way when the names, contact information and sexual preferences of over 30 million of its members were released over the Internet by a team of hackers. Even cheaters and would-be cheaters who paid Ashley Madison an additional $19 fee to delete their accounts were exposed because their names were never removed from the website’s data base. Yet the website represented itself as being a “100% discreet service” that was “100% secure.” All hell “broke loose as divorces were filed, and reports of blackmail and suicides followed the leak.

  • A Lying, Cheating CEO Resigns in Shame
Next the reputation and credibility of Ashley Madison’s CEO Noel Biderman took a major hit and he was forced to resign.  In an interview months to the hack, Biderman, a married father with two young children, stated in an interview with the New York Daily News that he had never cheated on his wife, Amanda. In other interviews in which Biderman and his wife appeared together, the couple said they would be "devastated" if their partner cheated.  But over 300 of Biderman’s personal emails released by the hackers revealed that despite his public claims of marital fidelity, Biderman himself had engaged in multiple affairs over a period of several years.  One can only imagine Amanda Biderman’s humiliation when her husband’s own infidelity became known to the entire world. Ten days later, Biderman resigned. 

  • Multimillion Lawsuits Abound
The massive data breach made Ashley Madison the target of multiple lawsuits.  In a settlement in December 2016, Ashley Madison agreed to pay $1.65 million, to be divided among 13 states and the Federal Trade Commission. The government initially sought a $17.5 million penalty, but agreed to the lower amount because of the parent company’s inability to pay.  NOTE:  As part of its corporate makeover, Avid Life which also operates a variety of other dating services, renamed itself Ruby Corp. The Canadian-based company was found guilty of using lax online security, misleading users, and creating fake female profiles (bots) specifically designed trick male customers into believing there were more women on the site than there actually were.  And it’s not over yet. Ashley Madison/Avid Life Media / Ruby Corp. still faces the prospect of multiple million class action lawsuits by angry American and Canadian customers.

Still Alive and Kicking

For years, even though Ashley Madison was the premiere dating site for married men seeking extramarital affairs, I adamantly refused to mention the website by name in my infidelity columns to keep from encouraging curious would-be-cheaters to seek it out. I referred to it only as “a website for married cheaters” so as not to titillate the interest of any husband who was even remotely contemplating cheating on his wife.

However, Ashley Madison has become a household name after the secret lives of its members were exposed, and now the whole world is familiar with the website and what it does.  Today the controversial website claims to have "over 46 million members."  It remains to be seen whether or not that’s actually true.

After the fallout from the hacking scandal, it’s surprising that Ashley Madison is still in business and has any members at all -- which only proves that there are untold numbers of people out there who are determined to cheat on their mates.

Some people never learn.

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