And yet, even at JDI, the sexbots march on
Flirt Crowd’s homepage notes that, “This site includes fictitious profiles called ‘Fantasy Cupids’ (FC) operated by the site; communications with a FC profile will not result in a physical meeting.” By joining, subscribers accept that “some of the profiles and Members and/or Subscribers displayed to them will be fabricated.” JDI did not return requests for comment, but the owner, William Mark Thomas, consistently denied the FTC’s allegations elsewhere, despite the settlement.
They aren’t the only ones sneaking sexbots into the fine print
Similar language Little Armenia Suche appears on UpForIt, which says the company creates user profiles so visitors can “experience the type of communications that they can expect as a paying Member.” In fact, for all the outrage over Ashley Madison’s fake femmes, the company had been disclosing its use of “Ashley’s Angels” for years in its own Terms of Service as an “attempt to simulate communications with real members to encourage more conversation.” Today, that language is gone, but there’s still a clause with wiggle room: “You agree that some of the features of our Site and our Service are intended to provide entertainment.”
Obviously, the sites don’t want to draw attention to the fine print. In January, Biderman, Ashley Madison’s former CEO, emailed staff members under the subject line “this is really problematic…” He pointed out that the Wikipedia entry on Ashley Madison had been changed to include a section on Ashley’s Angels. In response, Anthony Macri, the former director of social media for Avid Media Life, assured Biderman he would remedy the problem. “I will change it back to what it was,” he replied. Biderman suggested tweaking it to read, “The sites authenticity has been challenged and proved to be legitimate.”
In the meantime, Christopher Russell, the club owner jilted by Ashley Madison bots, is now part of a class action suit against Ashley Madison. As a matter of principal, he wants his $100 back, and for the government to establish new rules for the multibillion-dollar playfield. “I hope this puts all of the dating sites on notice that this kind of behavior is fraudulent,” he says. “You shouldn’t be tricking people on your site into handing over money when nobody is on the other end of it.”
Likewise, Tinder’s “It’s a Match” screen can offer as much of a Pavlovian fix as any IRL meet up
T here’s a counterintuitive way to look at the success of AI cons on the Net, as well as the present and future status of bots online: all the people who got duped wouldn’t have been so dupable if they weren’t enjoying themselves, right? Bot or no bot, the encounters were giving them pleasure. It’s the same logic that applies to strippers chatting up guys for cash, or the so-called “hostess bars” in Tokyo where guys pay not for skin at all but conversation.
Maybe, in the future, when online daters are jacking in and jacking off in the Matrix, they won’t care who or what is on the other end. Maybe they already don’t care. Plenty of people just want some kind of customizable, convincing experience to get turned on. Facebook’s $2 billion acquisition of Oculus Rift, the leading virtual reality firm, is one big clue that simulated life online is about to get exponentially immersive – making it even more difficult to distinguish real people online from bots.
We’re still decades away from a Scarlett Johansson bot, as depicted in the movie Her, but Conru predicts virtual reality to be a normal part of our lives within five years. During my visit to AFF, Conru and Buckheit bring up a web cam page, showing a real woman, in real time, on the other end. With long dark hair and a tight black and white dress, she sits on a towel in a small room, typing on a computer and waiting for my command. When I click a button on the keyboard, she twitches and grabs for her crotch. I click again, and she grabs a second time. “We’re deploying teledildonics,” Conru explains, sex machines that enhance the online experience.