Netflix's 'Ashley Madison' Doc Offers How-To For Would-Be Cheaters

We’ve been swimming in salacious information lately. But just yesterday, I came across this bit of “news": “We saw that Columbus, Ohio, had the No.1 most signups per capita for any city across America, which was fascinating because they weren’t even in the top 20 of our list last year," Paul Keable, chief strategy officer for Ashley Madison, told Fox News Digital.

He added, "Something is going on in Ohio because there are two other cities in the top 20: No. 7, Cincinnati and No. 13, Cleveland.”

Two shockers: 1) Columbus, Ohio -- and perhaps the Buckeye state itself -- is the 2024 hotbed for marital cheaters?  

And 2) Ashley Madison still exists?

Yes, that creepy site founded in 2002 with a bombshell of a new business proposition -- an online dating app specifically for the married unfaithful with the tagline “Life is short. Have an affair” -- never actually shut down.



This was surprising to me, since the business so thoroughly blew up in 2015, resulting in hundreds of suicides and countless damaged lives and reputations. That’s when its supposedly super-secure data base ---for 37 million members worldwide -- was hacked, and usernames and other intimate info was distributed online in two huge dumps.

Now  the site is the subject of a recent three-part Netflix documentary, “Ashley Madison: Sex, Lies & Scandal.”

The film has quickly shot past “Baby Reindeer” as the most-viewed show on Netflix.

According to the streamer, the doc is supposed to present an “unflinching look” at what happened. But now the series has a scandal of its own.

Because someone flinched, big time, since it turns out that rather than being a deterrent for signups, the doc is acting as a neon, three-hour ad for the now-surging app.

As director Toby Paton told Netflix, “Rather than berating people who joined Ashley Madison, we were much more interested in exploring why they were drawn to the site. What were they looking for? What was going on in their relationships? And crucially: What was their partner's side of the story?”

(Though commonly, infidelity has little to do with the partner, and much more to do with what a cheater does, regardless.)

I watched so you don’t have to.

In so doing, I clutched pearls that I didn’t even know I owned.

Ashley Madison founder Darren Morgenstern raised money for the company -- born in Canada in 2001, just after the dot-com bubble burst, but funded in that previous heat -- based on the statistic that 30% of people on existing dating sites were married.

The brand name was chosen because it combined two popular female monikers at the time, (yeah, for baby girls)  that were considered “upscale.”

It turns out women users never had to pay.  But getting women to sign up was always a problem, and the documentary reveals that most members who claimed to be women back in 2015 were actually fake accounts. While men paid extra to have conversations on the site with women, they interacted with bots or AM female employees.

And though one of the selling points was the site’s supposed rock-solid security, it turns out that CEO Noel Biderman, the engineer behind most of the site’s growth, just made that part up. He even posted a fake gold medal for “top security” on the home page.

Publicity hound Biderman, who often appeared in interviews on TV shows with his wife, to whom he maintained that he was faithful, was also a victim of the hack. His emails revealed  he was having multiple affairs.

So was Sam Rader, who cried with happiness at his wedding when he married Nia, a devoted   wife.  The pair gets a lot of air time, profiled in the doc. After having two kids, they became popular Christian vloggers, and shot to fame after videos of them lip-syncing in their car went viral on YouTube. The couple went on to make a living online, sharing what appeared to be their idyllic family life, to the point that Sam told Nia she was pregnant with their third child after he secretly tested her urine, and that story went viral.

And yes, you can see this coming. It turned out that Sam’s name was released in the Ashley Madison leak. Nia felt angry and humiliated, but took him back, and they are still married.

In fact, they recently filmed themselves watching the doc and released that footage on social media.

So, despite the controversy following the hack, Ashley Madison -- now under new leadership and with better security, its principals claim -- still boasts a user base of 70 million members, according to a 2020 report.  The app is seeing massive growth this month, bolstered by Netflix viewers discovering that it still exists.

And as Nia Rader, the Christian vlogger wife, told Netflix, “Social media can show you exactly what you want to see. It can show you everything you’re not, everything you wish you were. Somebody’s got to step up and say, ‘Life is messy and ugly, and we’ve made mistakes and we’ve done things, but there’s still hope out there.’”

The Raders sure have extra hope now, as the couple stands to benefit from this documentary giving them a second life in public.

And as for the new chief strategy officer, whose quotes appeared up top, he’s never been busier, giving multiple interviews about the site’s growth and the rise of non-monogamy in Ohio.

The lesson here is that In the end, nothing else matters, as long as you're a social media star.

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