An interview with James McGibney, mayor of KarmaVille, CupidVille and Cheaterville
Article by: Las Vegas Review Journal
January 27, 2012
Want to understand why James McGibney started Cheaterville.com? The former Marine says the answer is written on his back: Semper Fi, latin for "always faithful." Courtesy of James McGibney
Few websites are as controversial and polarizing as Cheaterville.com, where anonymous users can publicly label others as cheaters and share stories of indiscretions, alongside a full name, physical description and other identifying information like job and photo. People seem to either love it or hate it.
Nobody knows this better than founder and CEO James McGibney, who's been in a media whirlwind since launching the website earlier this year. The former Marine claims the site's intentions are pure and he isn't trying to hate on women, or cock-block horny men. His original intention was simply to help his fellow soldiers, whom he saw constantly spurned by cheating. Now, he's hoping to expand the business with two sister sites: a dating website called Cupidville and the more conceptual Karmaville, where people can blog about Cheaterville and Cupidville experiences and help local charities.
The Weekly sat down with McGibney to get the lowdown on Cheaterville. The rest, you can decide for yourself.
You launched on Valentine's Day. Ironic.
I was born on Halloween, so maybe I have a twisted sense of humor. Really, though, it was the perfect date. A lot of people look at Valentine's Day and think of rainbows, hearts and lollipops; but a lot of other people are reminded of people who've betrayed them.
How did the site do initially?
We received some 500 posts on the first day, and that was without any marketing. The link just got out; a few people on Facebook just spread it.
The site is free, has it been difficult to monetize it?
Not at all. We thought about making Cheaterville a paid service, but then we asked ourselves, Why? Facebook doesn't charge. Other social sites don't charge. Let's keep it open. So, things are ad generated, and we have some top-rate advertisers. They care about hits, especially return users. Our site is getting users that visit three or four times a day. People are hooked. Our average user stays on for eight and a half minutes. That's a tremendous period of time.
Did any of this surprise you?
Every day someone is in the news because of cheating -celebrities, congressman, whoever. Yet, there was no site that was specifically targeting it. So, I knew this site would take off, but I am surprised at how quickly it has been.
I almost find it hard to believe this is the first site like this.
There's really nothing out there like this. There's that show, Cheaters, but that's a television show. This was the first site we found where you could put both men and women on the site. There's another site,DontDateHimGirl.com, that focuses just on men.
What does Cheaterville show about men versus women cheaters?
On our site, 78 percent of the people posted are women. That could just be that men are spiteful. I've also found it interesting the difference in how men catch women cheating versus how women catch men. When it's a woman cheating, it tends to be a long post. Men are more articulate on our site. It takes them longer to find out someone's cheating because women are smarter at it usually.
Any other user statistics that might surprise people?
The average age of people being posted is 30 and above. In our terms of service, you have to be 18 years or older. I did not want the whole high school crowd on Cheaterville. There's also a wide variety. It's execs, middle and upper class people getting cheated on. The stereotype of (the lower class feature on) Cheaters isn't right.
Have you checked out cheaterville.com? Adulterer or not, you just might be listed!
Scanning some of the entries, I've noticed that many don't just talk about physical cheating, but they'll go into details about people borrowing money and never returning it, being a dead-beat dad and things like that.
"We started to notice that too. We'd see an entry and say, - This has nothing to do with cheating, but we are not judge and jury, so we don't pick and choose. I've learned that cheating isn't just about emotional or physical cheating. It can be that they cheated me out of my money, or they cheated me out of my trust, when I found out they were a drug dealer."
How do you protect yourself legally? You've not verifying whether any of the things people are writing on the site are true.
The Communications Decency Act of 1996 protects companies like Facebook and social media sites. Facebook is not responsible for what somebody posts as his status update. We are under the same guise. Of course, let's call a spade a spade. We are different from Facebook. Like I said, we are not judge and jury. That isn't our place.
And what of the fear that vindictive people will post lies about other people simply because they don't like them?
We can't focus on that. Maybe there are a few of those posts, but we have to look at the bigger picture. We are not out to slander or ruin people's lives.
It's like people think Cheaterville is the only place where people are talking about cheaters, but I'd bet 99 percent of the time this info is on Facebook first. People will post an update, "I just found out this son of a bitch is cheating" It goes there first. It always goes there. Same with our celebrity posts - most likely they were on TMZ before they were on our site.
So, you think people are missing the bigger picture.
What we've found is that three out of 10 times, the cheater finds out their name has been blasted out, they contact the person who posted it because usually they know exactly who it was that posted the info and they apologize, they try to work it out. If they do, the original poster can login and remove the post. That's a big piece of what we're trying to do here.
Essentially you're giving power back to the victim of cheating.
Exactly. I was on KNPR and they put me against a marriage therapist, who said basically that instead of blasting someone out on Cheaterville, you should move on with your life. I don't think people think that way. Maybe some people do. Anyway, the site is about more than just moving on. It's about warning someone else. Plus, some people can't afford to go to therapy and drag it out.
So, you are just a messenger, providing a service.
Yes, people like to spin it as negative but it doesn't have to be. I find this happens a lot. Someone knows her friend's husband is cheating but she can't tell the friend because there's the chance the friend might get pissed or not believe her. So, she can go on Cheaterville and anonymously write about it and anonymously email it. Then, the friend can read the info and make that determination herself. I'm sure it's a shocking way to find out, but if you don't find out that way, you might find out a hard way - like after contracting an STD, which we've seen happen.
Yet, you're being called a site that's ruining America.
Look at the site AshleyMadison.com. They promote infidelity. That's what's wrong with this country. We are fighting companies like that. Look, I knew there would be people who didn't believe in Cheaterville. They think it's morally wrong. I've seen it compared to Jerry Springer and Jersey Shore, but as a Marine I fought for people to have that opinion, just like I fought for people to have the right to post on Cheaterville. I fought for freedom of speech. Now, I've been asked by some pretty influential people to take the site down, but I won't do it.
Was your wife on board with the concept from the start?
Absolutely. Now that it's taken off, she is always joking that if I ever cheated I would make TMZ. It would be a big scandal.
Have you cheated before?
Yes, before I was married. I know both sides of the fence. I can tell you that one of two things happens: You either don't learn a damn thing and you become a habitual cheater, or, in my case, I saw the destruction and I feel like I became a better man for it. It's such a selfish act. Cheaters are remorseful when the get caught, and Cheaterville is helping people get caught.
Have you run across a situation where one of your relatives or friends has appeared on the site?
No. I think that's a great testament to the people I hang out with. None of mine have been on there. You have to wonder, if you're on there looking for your friends and you see four or five stories about them, maybe this isn't the type of person you want to be friends with?
But what if a close friend said, "This just happened, it was an accident, please take me off."
I couldn't take that stance. I would get destroyed if it came out.
What happens when someone asks to be removed from the site?
If they contact us and ask to be removed from the site, our legal response is the same for everyone: We are not the ones who posted this information about you. They can respond directly on the post, say, "This is not true. I don't know this person, etc."- But we won't remove the post.
What info does get removed?
People have tried to post credit card numbers, social security numbers, mistresses numbers, mistresses husbands numbers. That stuff never makes it onto the site. We also don't post anything unbelievably crude. We take out curse words and threats of violence and we've gotten those. The filtration we do would likely shock people.
Let's talk about the fact that Cheaterville is based out of Vegas. Has national media tried to make anything of that?
Not really. I think they all find it unbelievably ironic that a company like this would start here, given the "What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas" thing. I started the company here because I live here. All our billboards in town are near the airport, and that's deliberate. We're trying to get tourists. We're not trying to unleash Cheaterville on all of Vegas.
Makes sense. One of the billboard taglines is, " Vegas isn't the only Sin City."
Exactly. Las Vegas is a great city. I actually think Cheaterville is showing people outside of Vegas that it is a way better city than people think. They think that nobody gives a shit here, but people do care. Think about this: Tourists can come here and lie, say, "Oh, I don't have kids, I don't have a wife" in order to have a quick relationship with someone here, then they just bail, because they don't care. Well, now Las Vegans can post about them. They can show that people here have good morals. It's a way of fighting back.
And people have done this?
Yes. There was a woman in New York City. She searched for her husband and found out that a dancer in Las Vegas had posted something about him. Apparently, he'd left a business card with her and said he would pay for college. He wooed her, then bailed, and she was pissed. The wife read this story and said, "This looks legit." She contacted us asking for the person's contact info, but we wouldn't provide it. She ended up commenting on the site and got in touch with the dancer that way. She verified that it was 100 percent true and left her husband. Stuff like this is happening all the time.
Reading so many of these stories could drain a person emotionally. What keeps you grounded?
I make it a point to read a submission within the first 10 minutes of being awake. I can tell now, because I've gone through so many of them, which ones will make me feel good about what I'm doing. You can hear the anger but you can see the therapeutic side. They're getting it off their chest.