‘Sorry’ state of affairs: Adultery site Ashley Madison under FTC investigation

© Mark Blinch
Executives of Ashley Madison, the website that offers extramarital affairs, say the parent company, Avid Life Media, is under investigation by the US Federal Trade Commission. They hint that the site’s use of “fembots” may be the probe’s focus.

Following the August 2015 massive data breach of the personal information of some 39 million users of Ashley Madison, the notorious dating website for cheaters, Avid Life Media appointed a new team to salvage the company's reputation and improve security.

But now, according to a Reuters interview on Tuesday with Ashley Madison Chief Executive Rob Segal and President James Millership, Avid Life is facing an inquiry from federal trade regulators.

While acknowledging the FTC probe, Segal failed to share the details of the investigation. He stressed that Avid began cooperating with the feds last August.

The leading theory behind the government probe is that the website used “fembots” to lure in male customers, by artificially beefing up the female ratio in chat rooms.

"That's a part of the ongoing process that we're going through...It's with the FTC right now," Segal said when asked about the fembots.

After the giant leak last year, it was revealed that male accounts on the website were disproportionate to female representation. The site’s male-female ratio was five-to-one. In addition, it was revealed that more than 70,000 female users were allegedly fembots.

This practice has allegedly been ongoing for years. An Ernst & Young report commissioned by Avid Life confirmed the use of female chatbots, according to Reuters. While the company deleted the fake profiles in the face of massive lawsuits in 2014, some American users reportedly had message exchanges with foreign fembots until late in 2015.

On Monday, the company confirmed that it hired "a team of independent forensic accounting investigators to review past business practices around bots and the ratio of male and female US members who were active on the site."

For now, though, the new executives, who have only been with Ashley Madison since April, took the time to apologize for the hack, saying, “We are profoundly sorry.”