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Infidelity website Ashley Madison faces FTC investigation, new CEO says ‘sorry’

A man looks at the Ashley Madison website in this photo illustration in Toronto on Thursday, August 20, 2015.
A man looks at the Ashley Madison website in this photo illustration in Toronto on Thursday, August 20, 2015. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graeme Roy

Following a massive cyberattack last year that targeted the infidelity dating site Ashley Madison, its Toronto-based parent company is now the target of a U.S. Federal Trade Commission investigation, according to a report.

New CEO Rob Segal and president James Millership of Avid Life Media, which owns Ashley Madison, spoke with Reuters about the investigation and the use of computer programs, known as fembots, that impersonated real women and initiated conversations with paying male subscribers.

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Avid said it does not know whether the use of fembots is central to the FTC’s investigation, but it has been “sharing information with the FTC” since August 2015.

“The company has been proactively sharing information with the FTC and other regulatory agencies since August 2015 and we’ll continue to cooperate in an open, ongoing manner to assist them with their inquiries,” Segal said in a statement to Global News.

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The company said it stopped using fembots in North America in 2014 and internationally in 2015, Millership said Tuesday in a post on the Ashley Madison blog.

READ MORE: Leaked data shows popular Ashley Madison passwords were terrible

An Ernst & Young report shared with Reuters revealed some U.S. users exchanged messages with foreign fembots until late in 2015.

“My understanding is that bots are widespread in the industry, but they are no longer being used, and will not be used, at Avid Life Media and Ashley Madison,” Millership said.

On Tuesday, the company unveiled its new CEO and president in a bid to rehabilitate the company’s image following a security breach last year that exposed the personal details of roughly 40 million customers who signed up for the extra-marital dating site with the slogan “Life is short. Have an affair.”

READ MORE: Ashley Madison users continue to receive blackmail months after hack

“The company is truly sorry for how people’s lives and relationships may have been affected by the criminal theft of personal information. That’s why we’re charting a new course and making some big changes,” Segal said. “Our team will continue to share updates and more information over the next few months as we build upon that vision.”

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Former CEO Noel Biderman resigned in the wake of last year’s hack that ultimately cost Avid more than a quarter of its revenue.

Ashley Madison’s new executive leadership will face hurdles as they try to revive the company’s credibility, as there are several ongoing class-action lawsuits tied to the incident in the U.S. and Canada.

The company said Segal and Millership were hired in April and is putting millions toward better security and more discreet payment options.