Dangerous Morality: over 12 million Ashley Madison users are single
If you thought Ashley Madison wasn't really a thing in India, a new global distribution map of the site's users will surprise you:
The map by Spanish digital agency Tecnilogica shows that while India may not be competing with the US or Canada for the title of most users, there are still tens of thousands of Ashley Madison members in the country. Predictably, big cities like Delhi and Mumbai lead the way with over 30,000 members each, but there were users in smaller towns as well. And while globally men make up over 85% of Ashley Madison's users, India has a slightly higher proportion of female users.
While the hackers claim to have done it to expose Ashley Madison, what they have instead achieved is to open up a can of worms for 40 million men and women nationally. Who cares though, right? Cheaters deserve to be outed? Heck, even the hackers passed judgement on them, almost as an irrelevant aside: 'Too bad for those men, they're cheating dirtbags and deserve no such discretion.Examine some of the more high-profile people 'outed' so far, though, and a slightly more complex picture emerges.
Barack Obama, Tony Blair and Fox Mulder use Ashley Madison
That last one was meant to be a clue that, while all three are the names of registered users, none of them actually use the skeezy site.
The thing about the Ashley Madison data is that it's really hard to verify. The company makes people enter email addresses and names but there is no validation done for any of it.The only real way to verify whether a person is genuinely registered on Ashley Madison is through their credit card data. Pretty much all the other information can easily be spoofed, entered by someone who hates you or is just picked at random from your address book to keep your real name hidden.
We've already had a case of British MP Michelle Thompson, a married mother of two, claiming identity theft.
Here's proof: it took me all of 30 seconds to go from being me to being SavitaB, a blue-eyed, voluptuous 36-kilo bald woman afflicted with a mild case of dwarfism. With the email address firstname.lastname@example.org.
That doesn't mean our Prime Minister is using Ashley Madison, nor does it mean your bald midget neighbour Savita uses it. So let's exercise some restraint when it comes to judging the people whose names appear in this data dump.
There are actual users too. That doesn't necessarily make them cheaters
The most common thing I've heard since the Ashley Madison leaks are that users 'deserved it'. The sentiment isn't hard to understand either: infidelity hurts.But while Ashley Madison's tagline does imply just affairs, its users aren't necessarily adulterers.
Take my alter-ego SavitaB for example - she's single. She isn't the only one on Ashley Madison who is, either. She (me) never even met anyone. But if Impact Team were to do it all over again, she'd probably be seen as a lowlife cheater.
But set fictional Savita aside. Take the case of Canadian widower Eliot Shore. He signed up looking for companionship after his wife died from breast cancer. He claims he never even met anyone through the site. Still, he'll be tarred with the same brush.
Shore is now suing Ashley Madison.
People like Shore aren't in a minority - the website has over twelve and a half million single men and almost 2 million single women.
These aren't cheaters. Their only mistake is choosing the sketchiest dating website to exist outside the one's that appear as popups on porn websites (I know this for science reasons). Still, their sexual fantasies are now posted online, and, since the internet is forever, could be a potential source of embarrassment at best, blackmail at worst.
Divorce is nothing. Ashley Madison users could face death
While divorce lawyers are licking their lips and circling like vultures, there is a far worse fate at hand for some users - death.
Users have been identified in several Muslim countries, including neighbouring Pakistan, where women can face death by stoning for adultery.
Jail terms are also not unusual in some countries.But of all Ashley Madison's users, gay people may be hit hardest.
Pride parades notwithstanding, it's hard being gay in today's world. From shitty legislation to social prejudices, the odds are still firmly stacked against gay people. It's not surprising that members of the LGBT community would have found Ashley Madison a discreet route to meet partners.
The leak definitively outs people as gay who may have yet to out themselves to people in their real life. And that isn't just difficult, it's outright dangerous depending on where you live.
One Redditor posted this shortly before the leaks:
Over 1200 Saudi email addresses were published, outing gay men people in the country, all of whom risk the death penalty. Once again, their only crime was trusting Ashley Madison's guarantee of privacy.
Of course there are also a**holes in this world, and they deserve privacy too
Yes, not everyone's a saint, and those trying hardest to prove their saintliness are usually the worst of the lot.
Take Josh Duggar.
Duggar is a Christian reality TV star who was outed as an Ashley Madison user. He has since admitted to cheating on his wife and apologised for it, saying, "I have been the biggest hypocrite ever."
While a story like this does get my puritanical blood flowing, I realise that it still doesn't make it right. Duggar, despite seeming like human filth, still had a reasonable right to expect privacy.
Similarly, celebrity Christian video blogger Sam Rader was also exposed for having an Ashley Madison account he claims he never actually used. His wife has since forgiven him. That didn't stop his face from being splashed across internet articles and his reputation trashed. Yes, there are scumbags in the world but where it isn't criminal, let's put down our pitchforks and torches, disband the light brigade and leave justice to karma.