The Ashley Madison Kangaroo Court

The Ashley Madison data dump is big news at the moment, people are falling all over themselves to download the leak, which speaks volumes about how pathetic our society has become. Getting off on the misery of others, justifying what they are doing because of their worldview or opinion. Ashley Madison says “Life is short, have an affair” so everyone on the site must be married and cheating. If nothing else the company’s advertising strategy is profound commentary on the state of society and capitalism, where everything is a commodity.

Of course there will be spouses looking for cheating partners. Some will probably read through the data for nothing more than a laugh, some may troll for credit card numbers that have not been canceled, still others may be using it to pass judgment or for the purpose of identity theft.

It is bad enough Ashley Madison security was piss poor, perhaps a class action will arise out of it, but what is slightly more concerning is the judge jury and executioner attitude of it all.

There are more than 35 million names in that dump, sure there are in all probability a vast number of them belonging to people who were or are secretly cheating on their partners. Just as there are bound to be a number of fake accounts, singles and couples who may have combined or separate accounts that enjoy an open relationship or are swingers. Let’s also not forget that the e-mail addresses were not verified, some of those e-mails may well belong to people who have no idea of what is going on.

They all get lumped together and judged by the community at large. They all get named and shamed, the lives of millions in the public domain to be judged by others who may or may not know them. They could have children who face ridicule at school, or could find positions of employment untenable as a result of public scrutiny. Then consider the 1500 people in Saudi Arabia who may find themselves facing the death penalty.

Of course we can shove our noses in the air and say “They should have thought of that before signing up to Ashley Madison.” because of course we are all holier than thou. It’s easy to have an opinion which condemns others from the safety of our computer screens, to talk about making better decisions while ours are not the ones being scrutinised.

Perhaps those cheating on their partners deserve to be found out, but do the general public have any right to that information? What about those in open relationships, why are they dragged into this mess? Was it considered that some of those using the Ashley Madison site may even be single? Perhaps hacking groups should target all forms of social networking and dating sites.

Releasing this information indiscriminately was not a public service, it was done to further an agenda at the cost of millions of lives without a second thought, or any amount of serious consideration for what was being done. Think about it, why publish the sexual desires of people, this has nothing to do with attacking Ashley Madison. This is nothing more than a blatant attempt to embarrass the users, regardless of whether they are single, married or in an open relationship.

What next, hack into SexyLand store data and release the personal details and shopping habits of customers? Why not? It appears it is all fun and games to reveal who likes to be tied up or enjoys the company of heavy set people. Let’s all have a good gawk at the sex toy customers who like high speed vibrators or anal plugs as well.

We are not living in the 1920’s anymore, people enjoy alternative lifestyles and they also enjoy being able to go about those ways of life without being judged in the broader community. So long as they are not hurting anyone else they should be able to do that without fearing that some vigilante “hacking” group would put them in a position of feeling a need to justify themselves to anyone with a computer. And no, not all the users of the Ashley Madison website or other subsidiaries of Avid Dating Life were destroying families or cheating on partners.

The real disappointment with “The Impact Team” is that in 2015 we live in a world of serious economic inequality, outlandish levels of poverty, extreme ecological decline and accelerating rates of species extinction. Yet instead of working to further these understandings, taking action against Shell, B.P., J.P. Morgan or any other corporation complicit in the continued degradation of social equality or environmental decline, they want to protect what?

The sanctity of marriage? To try and end infidelity? In those regards they failed, people will continue to have extramarital affairs, albeit with more caution, and marriage is defined by the individuals in the marriage. By the way they treat each other, their ability to communicate with each other, not by religious doctrine, a bit of paper, a group of hackers, or public opinion.

No, singles, those in open marriages or swingers don’t need to worry about their partners finding out they were on the site. They need to worry about being judged in the public kangaroo court and having their personal details including credit card information splayed across the internet for the world to see.

Sure living in dishonest relationships is sad, cheating on your partner is disappointing, but the users of the Ashley Madison website did not all fit in this single definition. Yet there they all are, lumped together to be judged by the small minded.

Living in a world of dishonest banking, being showered with commercials which are little more than legalised lying, watching our planet’s biosphere succumb to the pressure of a consumption driven economy, these are all sad and disappointing as well. In fact one could argue they are more important than the exploits of Ashley Madison users by factors of magnitude.

The Ashley Madison data dump is in no way comparable to the release of government documents by Edward Snowden or information posted by Wikileaks. It is not of international interest. The Ashley Madison website is a dating site, bad taste advertising sure, but in no way involved in national matters, spying on entire populations of people, or war crimes.

So what say you “The Impact Team”, you have had your fun, you have indiscriminately damaged the lives of millions, you have your notoriety, do you think you could use your skills for something that matters?

Or is this the extent of it all? Embarrass and shame millions of Ashley Madison users with one broad brush stroke while you hide in the dark web on your lofty moral high ground, where you can watch the planet descend into turmoil and our environment collapse? But hey you got those pesky people having sex with each other, bad luck if some of them were in an open marriage, single, or swingers.

Collateral damage right.

What “The Impact Team” did was wrong, because unlike the Snowden or Wikileaks files there was no editorial process undertaken, no consideration for what was and was not information worth sharing. No limits, no consideration for the diversity of users, just a massive dump of data.

The reaction of the vocal majority is predictably disappointing, because they have a knee jerk reaction devoid of any amount of thought. The relationships you have a right to judge are your own.

Feature Image
Wedding at JW Marriott Guanacaste by JW Marriott Guanacaste Costa Rica CC BY 2.0
CCTV: Church Square, Bedford IMG_3569 by fotdmike CC BY 2.0


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About Sean Hurley

Sean views society as changeable, and seeks to investigate, challenge and bring into question our current social system of organisation, treating nothing as taboo or unchangeable. Twitter Facebook G+