An anonymous reader writes: Gizmodo's Annalee Newitz looked through the source code contained in the recent Ashley Madison data dump and found evidence that the company created tens of thousands of bot accounts designed to spur their male users into action by sending them messages. "The code tells the story of a company trying to weave the illusion that women on the site were plentiful and eager." The evidence suggests bots sent over 20 million messages on the website, and chatted with people over 11 million times. The vast majority of fake accounts — 70,529 to 43 — pretended to be female, and the users targeted were almost entirely men. Comments left in the code indicate some of the issues Ashley Madison's engineers had to solve: "randomizing start time so engagers don't all pop up at the same time" and "for every single state that has guest males, we want to have a chat engager." The AI was unsophisticated, though one type of bot would try to convince men to pay and then pass them to a real person.
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