What is Ashley Madison? Everything you should know before the Netflix documentary arrives

Netflix's Ashley Madison: Sex, Lies & Scandal releases on May, 15, 2024 (Image via Netfllix)

Netflix is geared toward the release of yet another gripping docuseries titled Ashley Madison: Sex, Lies & Scandal. The series chronicles the aftermath of a hacking scheme launched towards a popular dating website, Ashley Madison, that exclusively catered to married people and people in relationships.

The official synopsis for the docuseries reads:

"When a dating site for people seeking adulterous affairs is hacked, millions of users' intimate data is exposed, wrecking marriages and destroying lives."

The series is set to release on Netflix on May 15, 2024, and will comprise actual interviews of the people involved as well as re-enactments of the incidents that took place during the time.

The rise and fall of Ashley Madison


In 2001, Darren Morgenstern founded Ashley Madison, a dating website that functions much like any other. Those looking to establish connections could sign up at the website for a nominal fee. For women, the website was completely free of cost.

The site became a huge hit, and Morgenstern soon noticed a common trend among the people signing up for it. Morgenstern noticed very early on that approximately 30 percent of the people signing up for the website's services were either married or already in relationships.

Morgenstern then decided to capitalize on this statistic and created a website that exclusively catered to people looking for connections outside of relationships and marriages. Ashley Madison revamped itself with an additional subtext to their dating website that read:

"Life is short. Have an affair."

This small change affected the number of signups drastically. The site received a further boost when Noel Biderman took over as the CEO of the company. Biderman promoted the website on multiple portals, which sometimes also included appearing on television with his wife and spreading their website's message. The promotions seemed to have worked, as by 2015, the number of people on the dating website had increased by approximately 37 million.

But things took a turn for the worse in the same year, as a group of people hacked into the website and revealed important details, including the names of those who signed up for their services. It was dubbed as one of the "largest data breaches in the world." The hacking scheme created chaos, ruined relationships, and resulted in the downfall of the dating website.

Read more: Is the Ashley Madison list still available? Explained

What did the makers of Ashley Madison: Sex, Lies & Scandal have to say about the scandal?

Series director Toby Paton had a lot to say concerning the dating website and the decision to make a series based on it. Talking about the website in an exclusive comment to Netflix, he said:

"We all know infidelity can be incredibly destructive and hurtful, but at the same time, the fact that Ashley Madison had 37 million members tells us something else we all know — that committing to one person for the rest of your life is really hard.
"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?”

Paton also revealed his vision towards making the series and said:

"We wanted to create a world that was unexpected and fresh, something that could feel playful and humorous one moment, but genuinely shocking and emotional when the story takes a tragic turn. The result, I hope, is a wild and enjoyable ride that also offers a chance to reflect on love, marriage and desire in the age of the internet."

Ashley Madison: Sex, Lies & Scandal premieres on Netflix on May 15, 2024.

Read more: Ashley Madison: Sex, Lies & Scandal cast: List of real people in the documentary

Edited by Shreya Das
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