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Desperate times call for desperate measures, lol !Mediengruppe Bitnik, Desperate times call for desperate measures, lol

For the exhibition Desperate times call for desperate measures, lol !Mediengruppe Bitnik delved into gigabytes of data from the hack of Ashley Madison, an online Canadian dating service marketed to married men seeking casual sex. With a disproportionate number of male subscribers and virtually no human women on the site, most of the interactions were not human-to-human at all, but human-to-chatbot. In July 2015, an anonymous group called The Impact Team stole Ashley Madison customer data – including emails, names, home addresses, credit card information and sexual fantasies. The group threatened to post that data online unless Ashley Madison permanently shut down the website. When the company refused, Impact Team published personal data from more than 33 million users. The leak also revealed that Ashley Madison had created an army of 75,000 female chatbots to draw men into (costly) conversations, a dubious practice legitimized in small print by claiming that the website was “for entertainment purposes only.” !Mediengruppe Bitnik was curious to explore these human-bot relationships. Does it matter that users are chatting with bots and not humans? Why? How did the system work? How was trust built into it? How was the communication with the bots structured? Were these relationships “real”? For swissnex San Francisco, the group uses localized data from the Ashley Madison hack. Each fembot needed a name, age, a list of pick up lines and a location. 211 of these bots lived in San Francisco, and provided “entertainment” to 68,935 registered users in the area. At the swissnex Gallery, !Mediengruppe Bitnik gives a physical embodiment to the 50 bots located closest to Pier 17, giving form to the invisible bot-presence within the city.