Famed cheating website and purveyor of trollish billboards Ashley Madison makes money in a few ways: first, by charging users to access the site. Secondly, by collecting fees from advertisers who wish to reach the site's users. The third? Charging users twenty bucks to delete their profiles.
The annoying quirk in Ashley Madison's registration/deregistration process was likely discovered long before it was reported on recently by Ars Technica, but it stands to reason that the reformed cheaters who were affected by the hidden charge thought that raising a stink would cause them much more than $20 worth of headache, so they kept their mouths shut and paid the fee. Ars was made aware of the quirk by a reader who had signed up for the site while researching dating websites (suuuuuuure) but who now wanted to delete all of his online dating profiles because he never used them and was in a long term relationship. But when he tried to delete, he learned that wiping himself from Ashley Madison's digital memory would cost him. The site essentially has its users —cheaters and those who wish to be complicit in cheating — by the balls, and it will cost a cool Andrew Jackson to unvice them.
Which seems kind of fucked up, and extortion-y.
Paying to disappear isn't the only way to take an Ashley Madison profile down, according to Ars. Users have the option to permanently deactivate their profiles for free (how genteel). But deactivation (or "hiding") does nothing to remove messages sent to or received from other Ashley Madison users, so without paying, there's still a digital trail of infidelity waiting to be discovered by a husband or wife who logs onto a person's PC late at night.
Overall, 29 million people use Ashley Madison. That's a lot of $20 bills.
Image via AP