Gizmodo writer Annalee Newitz had seen hackers' claims that thousands of female user profiles on infidelity site Ashley Madison were fake, with some news stories claiming as few as 5% of the site's 5.5 million registered female users were real. So she decided to comb through the leaked data herself to find out. What she discovered wasn't pretty. "It's like a science fictional future where every woman on Earth is dead and some Dilbert-like engineer has replaced them with badly designed robots," Newitz writes. As near as she could figure, as few as 10,000 of the female user profiles belonged to real women who had ever done anything with their account. "The overwhelming majority of men using Ashley Madison weren't having affairs," she writes. "They were paying for a fantasy."
While hunting for fake profiles within the leaked data, Newitz looked at things like email and IP addresses and last names. These turned up a potential 80,000 likely fake female user accounts. She then looked at what the women were doing on the site—or weren't. Of the 5.5 million female users, fewer then 10,000 had ever responded to a message and fewer than 1,500 had ever checked their inbox. That's an activity rate of near 0%. Perhaps the truest sign of human female activity Newitz could find was the 12,108 female user accounts that someone had paid to delete. All in all, Newitz writes the numbers suggest "Ashley Madison is a site where tens of millions of men write mail, chat, and spend money for women who aren't there." For much more on her findings, read the full story here. (Read more Ashley Madison stories.)