Ashley Madison: Sex, Lies & Scandal (2024) s01e01 Episode Script

Life’s short, have an affair

And you're Are You're not getting
the coffee table, I'm guessing.
I'm not wearing these glasses, by the way.
I don't wanna come off as some douche
with sunglasses on inside.
I have other glasses.
I know you'll like these.
[whimsical rhythmic music plays]
You know, you you guys decide.
I'm sure I'll look very good,
and I'm not gonna regret any of this.
They go with the shirt,
they have pink lenses.
Granny glasses, a little bit.
I think my They make my face
look thinner because they're so big.
We're going for the thin.
[man] Let's do it then, come on.
My name is Evan Back.
And I worked for for Ashley Madison
for just under ten years.
It was a dating site for married people
who wanted to have an affair.
I'm looking for someone
Other than my wife ♪
[Evan] Part of what I really love
about Ashley Madison,
it's so outrageous to some people.
I'm looking for someone
Other than my wife ♪
When I would go to trade shows,
and they would say, ya know,
"Who's your biggest competitor?"
And I'd say, "The Bible." [laughs]
[cheerful music plays]
[man 1] We all dream
of the perfect marriage.
Sometimes life
just doesn't work out that way.
For most people,
married life is really hard.
If you found yourself stuck
in an unhappy marriage,
well, what would you do?
[man 2] The perfect affair
is not just meeting someone,
it's meeting someone
and not getting discovered.
[woman 1] When I first heard
about Ashley Madison,
I thought it was a great fucking idea.
[man 3] What the company was selling
was secrecy and discretion.
[woman 2] Just the deepest,
most personal stuff you can imagine,
people were providing to this website
and trusting it to keep safe.
[Evan] By 2015, we had 35
to 40 million members at Ashley Madison.
It was a cash cow.
And then, all of a sudden,
the shit really hit the fan.
[dramatic music plays]
Ashley Madison has become the target
of a massive cyberattack.
Tens of millions of unfaithful customers
could be exposed.
This hack is one of the largest
data breaches in the world.
[Evan] We betrayed their trust.
Now millions of marriages could blow up.
[man 4] These were people's
innermost secrets
that they never intended to be public.
[man 5] I had no idea
when I signed up for Ashley Madison
that it would turn
into the biggest mistake of my life.
[woman 3] My world was, like, crumbling.
Every single aspect of my life
up until this point felt like a lie.
[woman 4] It was like Pandora's box
has been opened.
What's gonna happen next?
[theme music plays]
[gentle music plays]
[man] I grew up here in Texas,
out by Lake Tawakoni.
At 13 years old,
my dad upped and left the family.
And so nobody
ever really taught me about love.
But one of the movies that came out
when I was younger was Big Fish.
Edward Bloom,
played amazingly by Ewan McGregor.
And one of the best scenes in that movie
is, like, the big scene where he confesses
his dying love to this girl.
He turns around
and looks up to the window, and he says
Sandra Templeton
"I love you, and I will marry you!"
And that was one
of the most influential movies for me.
The falling-in-love aspect,
I was just so drawn to.
So when I saw Nia
it was such an amazing moment for me.
It was like all these dreams that I had
coming to reality.
I was, like, living
what I've always, like, dreamed of.
[woman] I'm getting ready
to walk down the aisle,
and I looked forward and I see Sam,
and he started really, really bawling.
It was so amazing
for me to see that as as his wife.
Like, "Oh, my gosh."
Like, "He really loves me."
You know? Like, it was like a dream.
Just that like,
"Look at what we're promising each other,"
and if we really, really follow through
this is going to be forever, like, really.
There is no part of me that thought, like,
things would turn out the way they did.
[intriguing music plays]
My name is Marc Morgenstern,
and originally I was the creative director
at Ashley Madison.
Uh, it was founded,
actually, by my brother.
It was like early 2000s.
And I remember
my brother was really excited
because of some stat
about dating websites.
Thirty percent of the people on those
non-cheating websites were married.
And he went,
"Wow, that's just an insane figure."
That's how it started.
[man] We don't think it's sleazy at all.
I mean, Ashley Madison
is n not about porn.
Ashley Madison is not an adult site.
Ashley Madison is mature-themed.
Those were the two
most popular girl names,
Ashley and Madison.
It seemed a little upper-class.
So you felt the site
had a a certain pedigree.
[woman] Ashley Madison
was ahead of its time.
They were not just
an online-dating pioneer,
but an Internet pioneer.
The company first launched
right in the dot-com boom
of the early 2000s.
The idea of a dating website
was still at that time, you know,
a little out there,
a little sort of weird.
Like, "Oh you're gonna sign up
for a dating website."
Then, especially, you add
it's a dating website for adultery,
it's, you know, it's certainly a bit
of an "out there" idea.
[Marc] When it first started,
we were tryin' to figure out taglines.
The one they chose was
"When monogamy becomes monotony."
It was the first one.
[mouse clicking]
I don't think we properly focus-grouped it
just because we thought it was clever.
And, uh, a lot of people thought
it was wood.
It was "mahogany."
Some want to talk, some want to do more.
[Marc] They tried an infomercial,
which I I wasn't really a part of.
They tried other things,
and, uh, they kinda failed.
Let's face it, we're sexual beings
and some of us will always find a way
to have multiple partners.
It just didn't work. They weren't bringin'
the the the people in.
[dramatic music plays]
And it wasn't until Noel showed up
that things really changed.
He's now the new CEO.
Yeah, it's a dating site
with a huge caveat.
It's for people
who are already in relationships,
but looking to pursue that proverbial
something on the side.
[Claire] Noel Biderman started
his career as a sports lawyer.
And he would say in media interviews
that's when he realized there was a market
for a site like Ashley Madison
because he had so many clients
who were having affairs.
[Marc] Noel, he was fearless.
He was like,
"Let's try to push the envelope."
"Let's try to make this
really resonate with people."
We went, "No, let's just
Let's just go right for the jugular."
You know, life is short.
If you're unsatisfied with your life,
have an affair.
[Evan] Noel and I have been friends, uh,
for about 34 years.
We met at, uh, summer camp,
and we became close and fast friends,
and I like to tell people,
you know, we put the "fun"
in dysfunctional.
As a kid, you know,
he was really, really fun to be around.
Fantastic sense of humor.
Charming, funny, smart.
Didn't take, uh, any shit from anybody,
including, you know,
elders or people of authority.
He went to UCLA and and became a lawyer.
Noel's all about conflict.
Like, he's ready to go all the time.
[dreamy harp music plays]
It's 2007, I guess.
There was a message from Noel.
He just said,
"Have you heard of Ashley Madison?"
And I said no.
He said, "You're the best sales guy I know
and the best business-development guy,
and there's an opportunity in traffic
and affiliates and"
All kinds of things that are like
a completely foreign language to me.
I didn't know about any of it
because I had not used a computer
up until that point.
As we're getting off the phone,
he said, "You know your way
around a computer?"
I'm like,
"Heh. I know my way around a computer."
They offered me $100,000 plus 10%,
I was doing backwards somersaults,
and I was like, "Great,
what a what a great opportunity."
"I'll learn."
[foreboding piano music plays]
My first day,
Noel sat me down in his office
and explained to me the brand.
He understood the audience.
You're coming to Ashley Madison
because you don't wanna blow up
your marriage or your relationship.
The perfect affair
is not just meeting someone,
it's meeting and not getting discovered.
When you have an affair in the workplace,
our biggest competitor,
it's bound to be uncovered.
The whole business is built
on secrecy and discretion.
A married guy hooks up
with a married woman,
neither one of them
is going to squeal on the other one
because they both have the same to lose.
I admire his brilliance.
With Noel, the vision became clear,
was to be the largest and only
married-dating website in the world.
So he said to me,
"You need to attract men who are willing
to upload their credit card
and spend money to meet women."
[intriguing music plays]
[man] When I first joined,
there were not very many dating sites.
Ashley Madison was the best one for me.
I didn't want to get divorced,
and I I definitely wasn't lookin'
for someone to replace my wife.
[speaks typing text]
I'm married.
I'm not a sugar daddy.
One of the reasons Ashley Madison's
worked so well for me,
it allowed me to be specific
in what I was looking for.
There are d different things
that you can choose
about, like, what type
of kinky activities you like,
dirty talk or stuff like that.
I can narrow it down by height,
by weight, the color of their skin.
You know, m my type, uh,
women that usually
are younger than myself.
It's it's very exciting
when you first sign up,
and and you look at all the profiles
and you you e-mail a bunch of people.
Yeah, you're excited, you're enthusiastic,
you can't wait to see what this brings.
[Evan] Most dating sites
are a monthly subscription.
Ashley is not a monthly subscription.
In order to send messages,
you had to buy credits.
And when your credits ran out,
you had to buy more credits.
I think the best way I can put it
is you have to pay to play.
[Claire] Men sign up,
they message, say, the first ten profiles
they see on the site.
Very quickly, they've burned through
their package of, ya know, 50 credits.
Um, ya know, it's rolling over
on their cre credit card.
You're very quickly racking up
a big, big credit-card bill,
and the company
is making lots and lots of money.
[messages whoosh]
[Rob] There's a lot of women
and it's and it's awesome.
There there's more
You you almost gotta buy more credits
'cause you wanna e-mail so many people.
I just hoped that I would match
with a couple of 'em.
[messages continue whooshing]
[Evan] We had big screens
around the office
showing all the sign-ups, gross revenue.
All of this data was coming in,
and, uh, it was
really professional-looking. [chuckles]
[pleasant synth music plays]
[Marc] We started small,
and we had to expand the business
through our advertising and our marketing.
[Marc on video] Action.
[actress] Oh, no, you didn't!
[Marc] So I thought,
"Let's make a commercial"
Good, cut.
"people will talk about it."
Oh, just just
[joking around]
But because no one
had done something like this before,
it wasn't necessarily, uh
"All right, let's sit down
and make a marketing plan
and and and figure this out,"
and how to how to bring people in.
A lot of it was trial and error.
[dramatic music plays on iPad]
We did the bedroom-frolic commercial.
It's brightly lit,
so it looks like they're meeting
in the middle of the day.
It's clandestine.
It's romantic and fantasy.
The ad lines were,
"This couple is married."
And you go, "Oh, hey, isn't that sweet?"
"But not to each other." Oh!
That was the one that started the uptick
in registrations and people signing up,
because you read into it as,
wow, this this is exciting,
this is fantastic.
You know, I could possibly find this.
You know, instead of my boring, everyday,
you know, existence, I can have this.
[serene music plays]
[Sam] I was 24 and Nia was 20 years old
when we got married.
She really was my everything.
[Nia] I loved our early days
of our marriage.
I got pregnant pretty quickly,
and so that Things started to change
and shift a little bit,
but with that
comes also a lot of excitement.
Oh, my gosh. Did she just wake up?
[Sam] Yeah.
[baby coos]
[Nia] Still a lot of passion,
and, I mean, really that season of life
was like all my dreams coming to fruition.
[Sam] I loved being a dad.
I loved my children, crazy about 'em.
It was a beautiful life,
but it was also just like this sudden, uh,
inundation of responsibilities.
So much responsibility
that I I wasn't ready for.
- [Nia] Aw!
- [Sam] Come to Daddy hugs.
[Nia exclaiming in background]
Oh my gosh. He's so cute. Oh my God Ow!
He hit my teeth. You okay? You okay?
Paying bills, keeping up
with our finances, not getting in debt.
Making sure our mortgage got paid on time,
make sure the electric bill didn't go off
like when I was a kid.
I had imagined my life being exciting,
and it wasn't exciting anymore.
Life became monotonous.
That picture of love that I saw in movies
and that I so desired to be a part of
just started disappearing.
And I longed for, like,
that kinda passionate romantic love.
I didn't want to leave my family,
but I wanted some exci
something exciting in my life.
- [baby] Dada!
- [Nia] Awww!
Did Daddy go to work?
[ambulance siren wailing]
[Sam] I was at my night shift
as an ER nurse.
Probably 3 or 4 a.m.,
when things were very slow in the ER,
and most of us just sat there
and did our own thing.
And what I often did
was read Yahoo! News online.
That was a big thing during that time.
And, um, I just remember seeing
an advertisement for Ashley Madison,
"Life is short, have an affair."
I was like, "That sounds intriguing."
Life is short, they they're right.
They have that right,
so maybe they have
"have an affair" right too.
I wanted more of the good stuff
that life had to give.
So I signed up because
it sounded like they had the answer.
[troubling music plays]
I signed up with all my real information,
which obviously was a stupid decision.
I spelled everything correctly.
My birthday.
I I put everything exactly how
As if I was signing up for a credit card.
The site made it easy for me
just to put it all out there.
Used real pictures of myself,
put a few photos of my face on there.
I think I may've put one
with my shirt off.
That just kinda showed my upper body.
[Claire] Think about how sensitive
the information is
that you would be providing
to a website like Ashley Madison.
Details about your sexual fantasies.
Just the deepest,
most personal stuff you can imagine,
people were providing to this website
and trusting it to keep safe.
Think of the people's lives
that could potentially be ruined
if that intimate information
got out there.
At that time, cybersecurity was sort of
just starting to enter
the public consciousness.
But the risk of being hacked
wasn't something, I don't think,
that the average person
was particularly concerned about.
I didn't really hesitate
to give out my information.
Maybe I would on other sites,
but this one specifically,
they told you how protected you were.
I trusted they would lock it down hard.
But when I signed up for Ashley Madison,
I made one of the biggest mistakes
of my life.
[anxious music plays]
I think we had about
seven million members in 2010,
but it wasn't growing
fast enough for Noel.
The marketing team was mainly all men,
and I think that a lot of the advertising
and marketing that we did back then
was not respectful of women
and just appealed to men,
men who wanna get laid.
You're thinking, "Ashley Madison, sex."
That's where the problem lay.
[female reporter]
is no stranger to rejection.
The company has struggled
to get its racy ads approved.
It was virtually impossible
to get ads on television.
No mainstream networks would take us.
CBS said, "We're no longer gonna
let you air these ads on CSI."
Why do you need some executive
sitting in an ivory tower,
saying, "This should see
the light of day," or, "That should"?
That's not how we should do it.
[Evan] It was a tough time.
[intriguing music plays]
Myself and Noel,
you know, eat and breathed
and lived and thought about
growing Ashley Madison 24/7.
We couldn't make a commercial
and put it on television,
but Noel's original
stroke of brilliance came
when he became the face of Ashley Madison.
We had a PR and Communications Department
that spent all day long
trying to get
television-show gigs for Noel.
Now we were on the offensive all the time.
Really? A dating site
for extramarital affairs?
Its founder, Noel Biderman, is here.
[Marc] He believed that an affair
could really be beneficial,
therapeutic and and helpful.
This was the point
that he was gonna drive across,
and probably took it to a level
that no one else would've or could have.
I read that you actually think
that this is a marriage saver. How so?
It's a preservation device
for so many people
who are in a marriage, who say
- No, no.
- [audience groans]
They love their partners,
they cherish their children.
No, love and sex are different things,
they're very different things.
[Evan] Noel didn't back down.
He's a lawyer, right? He's a debater.
He believed if you're in a marriage,
and you don't want
to break up the marriage,
you love your spouse,
but you're just not fulfilled physically,
you're no good in your marriage
if you're unhappy.
So go get happy,
and then you can love your spouse more
because you're not resenting them.
Marriage is preserved through infidelity.
- You may not believe it. So many people
- [woman] No!
- Of course, you're wrong
- Really, do you believe that rubbish?
Oh c It's not rubbish.
There's no proof that somehow
romantic love should be exclusionary.
You wouldn't tell me, I have two children,
I can only love one of them.
That would be a ridiculous notion.
But somehow I can only love one woman.
If if you just talk to your wife
or you talk to your husband,
you would find out there's a lot more
going on with them sexually,
but most people
don't like to talk to each other.
So I'm sure there were a lot of people
that had crazy nights
that were so happy
because they met on Ashley Madison.
[pleasant music plays]
[Rob] When I first joined Ashley Madison,
I was happy with my wife.
I had been a married guy
for almost six years,
but being married is very difficult.
Ya know, we're all stressed out from work,
and we have a a child,
and we're not communicating,
and we're not really
spending time with each other talking,
and really finding out
about each other's day.
And and that causes stress
in a relationship.
And, um, I I think sometimes
your sex life can get a little boring
if you're with the same person
for 20, 30 years.
Sometimes you need somethin'
to mix it up a little bit.
There was one girl on Ashley Madison,
she was really beautiful,
didn't think she'd be interested in me.
But, uh, she got back to me
and we started talking,
and sometimes you have a connection
even through e-mails with somebody.
You just kind of are on the same page.
And you just kinda get them.
We arranged to meet at a park,
up where she lived.
I drove up there to meet her.
It was really exciting.
I I didn't know how it was gonna go.
And I remember seeing her from far away,
and I was happy that she was there.
Kinda met, we talked,
we started kissing rather quickly.
I asked her if she wanted to get a room
and she said yes.
You could feel the tension between us.
And, um
we kinda did what we do.
[phone vibrating loudly]
It was all supposed to be a secret.
That's why they use the adultery website
"Hey! They'd have done it on their own.
I was just helping them."
I mean, that's just what Satan says.
[rhythmic music plays]
[Evan] There's an old
advertising expression which we lived by.
Talk good about me, talk bad about me,
but please talk about me.
[reporter 1] Ashley Madison,
a a sort of dating site,
that brings adulterers together
so that they can betray their spouses.
Setting up affairs
that are gonna cause divorce,
ripping apart families, lives,
the lives of kids.
As if it's not disturbing enough
a service like that
exists in the first place,
well, now it's actually
gaining popularity.
America, what has happened to our morals?
We actually preferred it
when they were saying negative things
about Ashley Madison
because those stories went viral.
It's brand building.
Ashley Madison. Ashley Madison.
Ashley Madison.
The Ashley Madison website
is is morally reprehensible.
Uh, the owner is promoting adultery.
- [reporter 2]
- [woman] Terrible!
- Ashley Madison.
- It's immoral!
There was a moral outrage
because infidelity,
in the Bible, says,
"Thou shalt not commit adultery."
That's one of the big ten. Right?
Encouraging more of this behavior.
[Marc] Of course, they don't know
there's 613 commandments, actually,
not just ten.
And one of them is "don't eat shrimp."
So, you know,
you're already breaking that law.
Don't pretend like it's morally neutral.
Of course, it shouldn't be illegal,
but I don't know how you look
at yourself in the mirror every day.
[Evan] A lot of people felt
we were bringing misery on people's lives
by breaking up marriages.
My initial reaction was,
well, people are gonna cheat.
Like, it wasn't shocking to me.
But with Ashley Madison,
they were doing it safely and securely.
Secrecy and discretion
were central to the brand.
[rhythmic music plays]
This was my first real job
out of business school,
and speaking to friends and family,
it was apparent that people who work there
and the company itself
was not seen in a very positive light.
But I realized it was quite different
than literally everything else out there.
Every department had to get creative
because there was no real playbook
for running a web service
such as this one.
My name is Cathy,
and I was
a customer-service representative,
and I worked at Ashley Madison
for four and a half years.
I am totally, 100% monogamy [laughs]
but I don't judge people
that aren't monogamous.
- [phone rings]
- I had a lot of wives calling.
They would say,
"I have this $19 charge on my card."
"I don't recognize it."
We would just tell them, ya know,
"It's not your name on the card."
"Unfortunately, we're unable
to assist you."
But, uh, the majority would get mad.
"Well, this is my husband's credit card."
So a a lot would call back
with their husbands.
[Amit] Agents would say,
"Well, we are
a generalized billing company,
and we bill across
many different web properties"
Which was true.
" so we are unsure
of exactly what this ties back to,
but we will reverse the charge
so you don't have to worry about it."
The customer would reply back,
saying, "Thank you."
"Here is another credit card."
And believe me, I think I saved
a lot of marriages. [laughs]
And that's the idea.
We weren't there to destroy any marriages.
[delicate music plays]
[Nia] As a kid, when I thought
of getting married and settling down
and that happily ever after
was like everything.
I couldn't wait
to be the grown-up version of myself
and finally find, like, you know,
the man that was gonna be
my soulmate.
I would say avoiding infidelity
in my marriage was like top of my list.
Sam, he checked my boxes.
He was a Christian,
he didn't party, he was a kind guy,
and he had really strong morals.
And I also really had faith in his faith,
knew that he was a Christian.
I knew that he had a relationship with God
when I met him.
[Sam] I hid the app on my phone.
I would hide it within a folder
and dump a lot of other things in there.
So if she was looking for anything,
she wouldn't click on that folder.
It'd be just full of junk.
[mysterious music plays]
I paid for elite membership to give me
more features such as messaging.
[mouse clicks]
Maybe multiple winks,
because Ashley Madison had that function
where you could go wink at each other.
And I think maybe they also said
your messages to the women
would be prioritized
over other men's messages.
My stupid screen name was
It gave me a list of women
in the Dallas area who wanna cheat.
You see little profile photos.
They would put things
on their profiles such as,
"Just lookin' to have a good time
outside of my marriage," or,
"My husband's not sexually satisfying me."
If I came across a photo
that was pornographic at all,
I would generally just skip it.
The ones that attracted me most were ones
that were more natural, more real-looking.
Not so out there. "Come get me, sexually,
I'm half naked and this is all for you,"
you know, type thing.
First, I wasn't actually out to have sex,
I don't think.
I dunno what I was out for, to be honest.
I wanted attention.
I wanted something exciting.
But I wasn't crazy horny, you know?
My wife was satisfying me.
[sighs] But I did respond. I feel like
I responded to everybody in my area,
and then once that was exhausted,
I had to start reaching beyond my area.
[Nia] There was this sense
when he was working nights,
he was distancing himself from me.
I was kind of like a single mom
for, ya know, half of the week.
But I really used
all of the moments I was given
to, like, keep the love alive
and keep, like, my devotion
to him really evident.
Like, just the way
that I got his clothes ready for work,
greeting him when he came home,
waking up really, really early
to have food prepared for him
when he would get home
from those night shifts.
I did wanna be the perfect wife.
I It was it was honestly just, like,
what I wanted,
and I wanted him to feel, like,
lucky in a way
and not as a reflection of me,
but I just loved him.
[Sam] When I finally did get in touch
with one of the ladies on there,
um, of course, I was excited
that she was actually responding to me,
and that she wanted to meet up.
Uh, I was scared as well.
I was just like,
"Am I really gonna meet this person?"
And once I meet them,
what the heck are we gonna do?
[mysterious music plays]
[man] Is it really that unusual
for women to be the cheaters?
Absolutely not. They are actually driving
this wave of infidelity.
Their first big jump, women?
The workplace.
That's when they started having affairs
en masse.
Internet is that second big jump,
and they are starting
to behave more and more like men.
You need a good mix of both sexes
for this thing to work.
Women were vital.
[anxious piano music plays]
Women could join and become fully
functional members for free, forever.
They never buy anything.
I mean, if you don't have women,
then you don't have anybody corresponding
with the men who are paying.
[female narrator] Have you ever found
yourself on a really bad blind date?
[Claire] Ashley Madison was always
advertising to women,
and the company was always saying,
"We're a site for women,
we have so many women on our site."
So my character is this married woman,
hard-done-by woman
who's basically been a doormat,
I would imagine
for the entirety of her marriage.
She's on a date with her husband.
Supposed to appear as a blind date,
but they're celebrating their anniversary.
One of the things Noel would always claim,
he'd say, "I'm a postmodern feminist."
"I'm just trying to make things
better for women."
"I am trying to help them, ya know, escape
the bounds of patriarchal marriage."
[Noel] I think it'll speak
to a ton of women,
it's genuinely how they feel.
Their husband's just non-attentive
to what their needs are,
is rude and inconsiderate,
and they're seriously considering
what the alternatives might be.
And that might be visiting Ashley Madison
and finding finding a new lover.
[phone keys beeping]
[female narrator] Now imagine that date
lasting the rest of your life.
[Evan] The idea was,
you have a bunch of women at home,
you perk the ears up
of the ones who aren't happily married.
Why should you go your whole life
in this loveless, sexless,
you know, marriage?
You've only got one life to live,
life is short.
[contemplative music plays]
[woman] To maintain that monogamous,
faithful, loving relationship,
it gets so hard.
You begin to take advantage of each other.
You don't show the love as much.
They still need to feel desired,
loved, and wanted,
not just like a roommate.
It was hard
to just be with just one person,
and even though I'm, like, going,
"Okay, I love this person,"
ya know, "I'm not gonna cheat on 'em"
Um, but then I cheat on 'em, you know?
Then I say,
"Okay, I'm not gonna cheat on this one,"
and then I cheat on 'em.
And I'm like, "Fuck," you know?
Am I am I a serial cheater?
But everyone I've ever been with
knows I'm a sexual person.
I had one boyfriend,
and the reason I cheated on him
was because he's playing video games.
And I'm like, "Dude, let's bone."
And he's like,
"Okay, let me finish this game."
I'm like, "Are you fucking kidding me?
I'm horny."
And so I cheated on him.
I felt bad,
but I always had a reason to cheat,
you know?
And I know that's no excuse, you know?
But I'm, like, going, ya know, "One guy,
okay, I cheated on you,"
um, "because you didn't give me
enough attention,"
and that's his own fault.
And then, um, my ex-husband,
he wasn't in town.
He was in the military and he was away,
and I was really horny,
and I met a hot guy.
So then he and I were fucking for a while.
It was nice to have something different,
to have a man touch you different.
Like, when you're in a long relationship,
it gets routine.
It's just a chore just to have sex,
to get a nut,
then you're like, "Okay,"
roll off each other and go to bed now.
So when I first heard
about the site Ashley Madison,
I thought it was a great fucking idea.
You go on a site
and you're able to talk to this stranger,
and tell him your deepest,
darkest desires,
and they're not gonna judge you for it.
No strings attached.
This is strictly sex.
I'm married. I'm happily married.
I'm not leaving my husband.
Um, this is just sex.
Everyone deserves to be sexually fulfilled
and mentally fulfilled.
[anxious violin music plays]
[Evan] By 2012, it was a lot of growth,
a lot of members,
but once we started to launch
in some other countries,
it went crazy.
[announcers speaking in various languages]
We are now in 35 countries, 15 languages,
and there's really no marketplace
that we can't see us expanding into.
It was very much a concerted effort
into having things tailored
to fit that country.
[Evan] Our marketing guy came up
with the idea for a billboard in India.
"Your parents arranged your marriage.
Let us help you with your affair."
[laughs] And people were outraged.
I mean, outraged.
I think it was funny.
We're now in the arranged marriage realm
in India,
we're in places where divorce is illegal,
in the Philippines,
even the Muslim world, in Turkey.
I mean, we were on a roll,
like a snowball going down a mountain.
I mean, the growth was incredible.
There were months and months and months
where we would just double our revenue.
Doubled, doubled, continuously doubled.
Now we're a real business,
a global business, right?
In 46 countries,
generating over $100,000,000 a year.
By 2015, we had 35 to 40 million members
at Ashley Madison.
[dramatic music plays]
[Amit] Things started scaling
up very quickly,
and security was
something that came up quite frequently.
We talked about it.
We were worried about it,
but it just kept
falling to the back burner
because it was understood
that we could make this work
while keeping up with our growth plans.
That is what everyone was focused on,
every single day.
I think it was very well understood that
if any of the web properties were hacked,
it would have been almost catastrophic.
The hope was that it wouldn't happen.
The anonymous way you sign up,
the discreet nature
of their communication platform,
the billing being secretive,
and ultimately our servers,
which sit in a remote location.
Kind of untouchable.
So I think we do everything we can
to protect privacy.
You know, when I watch that, we know
it's kinda snake oil salesman, right?
It's not true.
I mean, we know it's not true.
The promise of security and anonymity
and guarantee and and safety
was just something we said.
It wasn't something we did.
[intriguing music plays]
For people to run a company
that is based on security
and keeping your clients' secrets,
and protecting your clients,
and having very little security,
you're pushing it to the limits.
How far can I go
before someone's going to come in
and hack us?
It was like gambling with people's lives.
For Noel,
it's all about pushing the boundaries.
Pushing the envelope,
pushing the envelope,
that's part of his personality.
He wants to fly
as close to the sun as possible.
[woman] Noel Biderman and his wife Amanda
join us in studio this morning
to talk about
[Noel] I got married later in life
than some of my friends.
I think I was 31.
But I, too, kind of have bought
into the narrative, right?
I'm trying to live a monogamous life,
raising a traditional family.
It just so happens that I help
millions of people break with tradition
and, you know, uh, stray on their spouses,
and I'm okay with that. [laughs]
Noel would bring his wife Amanda
onto these TV appearances with him,
which must have made it extra enticing
for the producers of these talk shows, uh,
that, ya know, not only do we get, uh,
this man, the king of infidelity,
who runs this website for affairs
but claims to have never had one,
but we also get his wife, you know?
Well, of course we wanna talk to the wife
of the king of infidelity.
Like, we wanna know what she has to say.
The co-founder and CEO, and his wife,
are here to tell us
[Evan] He convinced her
to come on The View.
Whatever she's saying,
it's because Noel has prepped her.
But you're now the face
of the advertising for it.
Which I guess leads me to the question
There you are.
[Amanda] You know, having myself up there,
in my mind,
it's gonna spawn on some conversations
amongst married people
who don't even talk about this issue.
And they talked about
how good their own marriage was,
and completely monogamous,
and then used that to promote Ashley,
but say, "But not everybody
has a great marriage like ours."
I would be devastated if he did it to me,
but I would not blame a website.
Ashley Madison is not creating cheaters.
It is servicing a need.
[producer] How would you feel
if your husband cheated on you?
I would be shocked.
My husband and I are
in a 23-year relationship,
completely monogamous,
but I don't think I would blame him.
Ashley Madison taught me that
the cheater
is not the only person to blame.
If somebody is cheating,
either they're a narcissistic sociopath
and they just
It's in their makeup,
and there's nothing you can do.
But most of the time when people cheat,
it's because something's broken
in their union,
in their partnership, in their marriage.
[jazz music plays]
[Rob] I feel that
there are a lot of people
that are not effective
and honest communicators.
I consider myself one of the happiest
married men that I that I know,
simply because I have options
that my friends do not have.
I can meet a girl,
and if we hit it off
I I can bring her home that night,
if if I so please. Um
I'd have to tell my wife about her,
introduce her to my wife,
but that's that's not a problem
if that were to happen.
- Hey.
- [Stephanie] Hey.
- I made cookies.
- Oh, nice!
You're the best. Honey, you're the best.
- Love these.
- You're welcome.
I let him have sex with other women,
and I'm okay with it.
I do not get jealous at all.
He's mine,
and I know he's gonna come back to me.
I just don't have the jealousy in me.
[Rob] I'm honest with women
I talk to on the website.
I I let them know up front
that I'm married,
and, uh, Ashley Madison was one
of the few choices I had to do that.
We have two rules.
Number one, she always knows where I'm at,
who I'm with, so I'm not hiding anything.
I I basically get permission
before I go.
And the second rule is I wear a condom,
which is pretty obvious.
If I'm not in the mood, then it's a no,
and he's never thrown a fit or anything.
He's just like, "Okay, it's a no."
You know?
And he tells 'em, "My wife said no."
Want a big salad or a little salad?
[Rob] Uh, the little one's fine.
That way I have more room for cookies.
You're so smart.
My wife's letting me
express my sexual fantasies
and and and really
what makes me happy,
and I think it's fair
for her to have the same.
[Stephanie] I am a dominatrix.
I get so high from it.
It's just such a thrill
to have a man under your control.
I'm I'm I'm cool with all that.
I think she needs to have
her own sexual expression and outlets.
It's things that I'm not into it all.
I call him Tiny Tim because he's tiny,
and any guy can handle Tiny Tim.
[Rob] I'd be lost without Steph.
If we broke up, I'd be so miserable
'cause I could never replace her.
I could never I'd be a fool to try to.
[Stephanie] He's my everything.
He's a good father,
and he's a good husband.
He doesn't lie to me.
Consent, the the other person knows.
I mean, cheating
I think the real harm when someone cheats
is is what's done emotionally
and to the trust.
It's not the physical action.
It's not the intercourse itself,
but the the violation
of of everything that was sacred,
of communication, of trust, of honesty.
- Uh, I think that's the real issue.
- Yeah.
[mysterious music plays]
[Sam] Constantly lying to Nia,
that was really hard for me.
But there's just a lot that I was seeking
through Ashley Madison.
Validation from other women
and them noticing me was just huge,
and Ashley Madison was just a way for me
to find women who'd be attracted to me,
and so I could suck up their validation.
But during that period of time,
something happened
and that just completely changed my life.
The movie Disney Frozen came out.
We got the soundtrack,
listening to it in the car all the time
just like everybody else.
And I saw that, you know,
all these videos were going viral.
No matter what kinda video you made
regarded to Frozen, it was doing huge.
I was on YouTube seeing this.
So Nia and I were singing to that song,
"Love Is an Open Door."
I was like, we gotta sing to this song.
We're We have to lip-sync this song.
I see your face
And it's nothing like I've known before ♪
Love is an open door ♪
[Sam] We practiced really hard
to perfect it
and did several takes of us lip-syncing,
and we finally nailed it.
♪Door ♪
Love is an open door ♪
- With you ♪
- With you ♪
It was some of the most
fun memories I have,
of kinda laying in bed at night,
practicing these lyrics,
and we just had so much fun.
Like, the most fun we'd had in a while.
'Cause Sam had been working nights.
It was just such a really sweet time
in our, like, relationship.
Man, it just went crazy viral.
It took off like almost immediately.
It was just millions of views,
I think daily.
I was just, like, mind-blown.
It was like winning For me
With the validation that I wanted
so much in my life
from women, from other people,
to get that validation from YouTube
and the world was just
It was better than winning the lottery.
Like, that was winning the lottery to me.
It was huge.
"Hi, Sam and Nia, I work for Disney-ABC,
and I'd like to talk to you
about your Frozen video
and incorporating that
into our Christmas special this year."
"Let me know if you're interested."
- Woo! That's so cool!
- How cool is that?
At that point
I started enjoying my life again.
It just brought an an excitement
to my life
that I that I may have been seeking
signing up from Ashley Madison.
- You look gorgeous.
- Yeah, I had to change my outfit.
- Does this look okay?
- [Sam] Look at this.
Love the dress, love the shirt, the face,
love the hair, love it all. Love it.
The infidelity desires kinda just stopped,
and, um, during that period of time
I deleted Ashley Madison.
[wistful music plays]
But I was still
carrying all these secrets.
My intentions were to keep them to myself
until my death,
that nobody would know about them
except the people that were involved,
and I was gonna be takin' this
to my grave.
- [Nia] You got off-key there at the end.
- Did I really?
- Yeah. I would do the same.
- I thought I was on key the whole time.
[laughs] I can't tell if he's serious.
[Sam] I just knew inside,
Nia would never be able to handle it.
Like it would be impossible
for her to accept what I've done.
[dramatic music plays]
[Evan] I just remember
coming into the office.
And normally people are kind of
mulling around, drinking coffee,
lotta chitchat.
When I got into work that day,
it was a strange, weary,
uncomfortable silence.
Like, silence.
Somebody must've just got their ass
chewed off or something, I thought.
Flipped on my computer,
and the image came up
and music started to play.
[hard rock music playing on computer]
It was really in-your-face rock and roll.
Like, what the fuck is this?
I went in to to talk to Noel,
and Noel was in there with our COO
and a couple of the tech team.
I knock and I, you know,
go to slide the barn door.
And I'm like, "Hey, I'm having an issue."
They're like
[angrily] "We know! We know!"
Okay. What?
[angrily] "Don't touch your computer."
I thought, well,
"I guess maybe our site's down."
So we're not making any money, right?
But then once everything set in,
I'm like, "Oooh."
We got hacked.
[intense music plays]
"Ashley Madison must
shut down immediately."
"We have taken over all systems
in your entire office."
"We will release all customer records,
with all customers'
secret sexual fantasies"
It was blackmail.
If you don't shut down your business,
we're going to make public
everybody in your databases.
[Cathy] We were shocked and terrified.
I mean, we're there trying to protect
their discretion, their identities,
and this would ruin
a lot of people's lives.
We immediately switched to crisis mode.
But I just never expected
everything to get as bad as it did.
Ashley Madison has become the target
of a massive cyberattack.
The Impact Team is threatening
to leak 37 million customers
if the website does not shut itself down.
We're not gonna shut down our business.
Like, who the fuck are you?
We had 30 days
to figure out who hacked us.
Otherwise, our business could be finished.
Millions of marriages could blow up.
People disgraced.
Tens of millions of unfaithful customers
could be exposed.
These customers have a lot to hide.
The pressure was enormous.
I realized, okay, the
this is this is this is fucking bad.
[rhythmic music plays]
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