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. A leaked file of sample dialogue includes lines such as: “Is anyone home lol, I’d enjoy an interesting cyber chat, are you up to it?” and “I might be a bit shy at first, wait til you get to know me, wink wink :)”. Bots were deployed for international markets as well. The company would simply run the dialogue lines through translate. In the end, about 80 percent of paying customers were contacted by an Ashley Angel.
These aren’t being created to pass the Turing Test, the legendary challenge named after artificial intelligence pioneer Alan Turing which aims to convince a human she’s talking with another person and not a machine. Their sole purpose is to get the dater to want to chat more. And a pent-up dude online is the easiest mark. As acclaimed AI researcher Bruce Wilcox puts it, “Many people online want to talk about sex. With chat bots, they don’t require a lot of convincing.”
L uckygirl wants to chat. Her request pops chatki chat up on my screen shortly after I create a free account on UpForIt, a popular hookup site that bills itself as the place “where hotties meet.” Luckygirl fits the criteria. Her profile shows a pretty, tanned 32-year-old from New York, with chestnut hair in a perky ponytail and a zebra-striped halter-top.
So that’s how the hustle basically works: get a guy on a site for free, flood him with sexy playmates who want to chat, then make him pay for the privilege
Whether I qualify as a hottie is impossible to say, because I haven’t uploaded a picture or description yet. But Luckygirl is eager to party, so I click reply. A window pops up telling me that in order to read her message I have to upgrade to a premium membership for a variety of fees. Ok, fine, I whip out my card and opt for the cheapest deal, $1.06 per day for three days. When my transaction is approved, I read the fine print warning me that any reversed charges could result in me being “blacklisted” from credit card processors.
Unless, of course, the prowlers are fake – which seems to be the case once I pass the paywall (as if a supermodel hitting up an anonymous guy online isn’t tipoff enough). Within seconds, I’m pinged by a Kardashian lookalike who messages that she’s “feelin FRISKY and NID sme0ne to plaay with.” Then there’s Ruthdonneil123, a 33-year-old New Yorker whose profile picture, I discover by a Google Image Search, is, in fact, a stock picture of a pornstar.
Along the way, hit him up to join a webcam site, or maybe a porn site. Oh yeah, and then put some mandatory memberships in the fine print which automatically renew each year. And of all the guys who get roped in, how many are going to report to their credit card company that they were trying to have an affair online?
With swingers like Luckygirl on the prowl, who’s going to complain?
A representative for UpForIt didn’t return a reply for comment. But Lesnick, the iDate organizer, says there’s no doubting who’s up to such tricks. “Everyone in the industry knows who the good players are and who bad players are,” he says. “Eventually the bad guys will get found out and get ces, like many in the business, he declines. “I have to bite my lip,” he says. “Some of them come to my event.”