Extramarital dating website CEO 'disappointed' by MDA's ban

Chief executive of  extramarital dating website AshleyMadison.com, Mr Noel Biderman. He says his company is "clearly addressing a demand" and even cited government statistics to back his claim. -- PHOTO: NOELBIDERMAN.COM
Chief executive of  extramarital dating website AshleyMadison.com, Mr Noel Biderman. He says his company is "clearly addressing a demand" and even cited government statistics to back his claim. -- PHOTO: NOELBIDERMAN.COM

Extramarital dating website AshleyMadison.com said it is disappointed by the decision of the Media Development Authority (MDA) to block the website here.

Chief executive Noel Biderman, responding to queries from The Straits Times on Saturday said: "Contrary to what has been stated by the MDA, AshleyMadison.com does not aggressively promote extra-marital affairs... We provide a platform and social network for like-minded adults that cannibalises an already existing behaviour pattern."

He said his company is "clearly addressing a demand" and even cited government statistics to back his claim. "AshleyMadison.com didn't invent infidelity, and infidelity has long been practiced in Singapore," he added.

The 42-year-old, who is married, also noted how divorce rates have jumped 344 per cent since 1980 - "a rise that has no correlation or connection to dating sites," he said. "If MDA wants to blame inanimate objects for causing moral corruption, then there is a long list of products that will need to be banned as well, including the iPhone, condoms, hotels and Facebook ... Each one of these items may play a role in an adulterous affair," he said.

The MDA on Friday said it has worked with Internet service providers to block access to the site, which "stood out (because) it aggressively promotes and facilitates extramarital affairs and has declared that it will specifically target Singaporeans."

Members pay AshleyMadison.com to contact each other. The website reached Asia this year, first with a Japan site in June, followed by a Hong Kong site in August. But many Singaporeans, including Minister for Social and Family Development Chan Chun Sing and other community leaders have rejected the proposed local edition of the website. Almost 27,000 people have also showed their opposition by supporting a "Block Ashley Madison - Singapore" Facebook page.

The National Family Council also said on Friday that it welcomed the MDA move to block access to the website, which is "detrimental to the foundations of a family".

Chairman Ching Wei Hong said: "We are heartened by the responses of many Singaporeans who stood together with us... upholding the importance of commitment and fidelity in marriage."

Mr Seah Kian Peng, chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Social and Family Development, said he was "happy" to hear of the ban. "It is true that if people want to cheat, they can seek other avenues. But we should not make it any easier, knowing full well the intentions of the website," he said.

But others like marriage counsellor Tammy Fontana, 43, did not think banning the site would reduce instances of adultery. The lead therapist of All In The Family Counselling said: "People have been cheating long before there have been websites."