But what about the women?
It turns out, there may not have been very many women. As in, almost none.
Gizmodo editor-in-chief Annalee Newitz analyzed the data from the site's user database and found a lot of suspicious stuff suggesting that nearly all the female accounts were fake, maintained by the company's employees.
First, the official numbers. The info that the hackers published contained about 31 million accounts apparently belonging to men, and about 5 million apparently belonging to women.
But when Newitz dug deeper, she found a bunch of test accounts that ended with ashleymadison.com, suggesting that they were created internally (90% of them were for women), as well as 350 female accounts for people with the same and very unusual last name.
Then she found three really damning pieces of data:
- Only 1,492 of the women in the database had ever opened their inbox to check their messages on the site. That's compared with more than 20 million men.
- Only 2,409 of the women had ever used the site's chat function, versus more than 11 million men.
- Only 9,700 of the women had ever responded to a message from another person on the site, versus almost 6 million men. (This number was greater than the number of women who checked messages because it's possible to answer messages in bulk when you first visit the site, without ever opening your inbox.)
Either way, Newitz writes, Ashley Madison is a site where tens of millions of men write mail, chat, and spend money for women who aren't there."
The site's parent company, Avid Life Media, did not immediately return a request for comment.