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FTC bans popular 'ask me anything' app among teens for 'reckless disregard' for safety


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The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has cracked down on the popular anonymous messaging app NGL: ask me anything. The move comes after a joint lawsuit filed by the FTC and the Los Angeles District Attorney's Office alleged a series of concerning practices by NGL Labs, the app’s developer.


The crux of the issue lies in NGL's marketing strategy. The app, which allows users to anonymously send messages to others, was heavily promoted towards teenagers, despite the inherent risks associated with anonymity. The FTC complaint alleges that NGL was aware of the potential for cyberbullying and harassment on such platforms, yet actively targeted this age group.


Furthermore, the lawsuit highlights the alleged deception surrounding NGL's content moderation. The app boasted a robust AI system that would filter out harmful messages. However, the FTC claims this was demonstrably false, leaving users vulnerable to abusive content.


Adding another layer of controversy, NGL was accused of employing deceptive tactics to boost subscriptions for its ‘NGL Pro’ service. The FTC alleges the app used fake, computer-generated messages designed to appear from real users, preying on users' curiosity and anxieties. These messages were often phrased in a way to entice users to pay for the pro version, with the false promise of revealing the identity of anonymous senders.


“NGL marketed its app to kids and teens despite knowing that it was exposing them to cyberbullying and harassment,” explained FTC Chair Lina M. Khan. “In light of NGL’s reckless disregard for kids’ safety, the FTC’s order would ban NGL from marketing or offering its app to those under 18. We will keep cracking down on businesses that unlawfully exploit kids for profit.”


This disregard for user safety culminated in an unprecedented FTC ban on July 9.


NGL Labs is now prohibited from offering or marketing any anonymous messaging app to users under the age of 18. The Los Angeles District Attorney's Office joined the case, resulting in a $5 million settlement paid by NGL’s co-founders, Raj Vir and Joao Figueiredo.





Image: App Store

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