Last week a shocking headline insinuated that Vatican employees–perhaps priests or even bishops?–were among those whose names and email addresses were released in the Ashley Madison hacking scandal. The Catholic Herald reported:
Vatican workers listed among users of Ashley Madison site
According to the Catholic Herald,
Websites of at least two dozen people with the .va address are among those who had signed up to meet married people for liaisons.
The reader could only imagine the ramifications for the Catholic Church, as a new sex scandal threatened to expose high-ranking Vatican officials to public scrutiny.
But now David Taylor, a Montreal-based biochemist and blogger who operates the website prooffreader.com, has stepped in to counter the accusation with facts. The article begins:
In the week or so since the Ashley Madison hack data dump, there have been many news stories that have reported its contents uncritically, by journalists who have obviously never seen the data.
“…even a casual perusal of these latter addresses reveals that something isn’t right. Does the Vatican have schools named after cities in Virginia or ISPs with the same names as those in Canada?
The answer is simple: There are plenty of addresses in Virginia that end in .va.us or .va.gov, and the people who signed up left off the end (Ashley Madison never verified e-mails, so people didn’t have to use a real one). And then because C and V are next to each other on the keyboard, some fat-fingered Canadians (a demofraphic to whuch I belomg) simply hit the wrong key.”
Taylor confides that he had been raised Catholic, but that he had no vested interest in protecting the Church; his only interest is in accurate reporting.
With accuracy as his goal, Taylor reviewed all 219 of the addresses which ended with a .va suffix. On close examination, it became evident that most were from Virginia; some originated in Canada. One of the 219 .va addresses did not have an equivalent (it came from vatican.com), but that domain does not seem to exist–and since Ashley Madison did not verify email addresses, they could easily have been falsified.
There were 55 additional email addresses which could not be verified; but those, too, did not appear to originate with the Vatican. Here is a helpful pie chart provided by prooffreader which shows the origin of the .va addresses on Ashley Madison’s data dump:
Well done, prooffreader.