FTC bans messaging app NGL for youth audience

"Banned Youth App"

In a significant ruling, the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has banned messaging app NGL from serving users under 18. This response to allegations that NGL exaggerated its AI capabilities to combat cyberbullying marks a first for digital platforms penalized for serving minors. The ruling is expected to influence user policies across online services, promoting stricter privacy practices and user protection measures.

NGL, short for ‘not gonna lie’, was accused of marketing its services to young users, despite risks like cyberbullying associated with its anonymous messaging. In 2021, the app soared in popularity, becoming a top download on Apple’s App store. However, its success drew critical public attention, including concerns from parental and online safety groups about potential cyberbullying and predatory behavior, prompting NGL to implement stronger protective features.

The Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office lodged a complaint against NGL for tricking users into purchasing upgraded memberships. Buyers who paid $9.99 per week to unveil the identities of anonymous message senders received only vague hints instead of clear information. The FTC flagged that NGL executives casually brushed aside complaints about this tactic, thereby fueling customer dissatisfaction and legal confrontations.

FTC enforces youth protection on NGL

Amidst rising controversy, NGL executives remained defiant, further damaging trust amongst their user base.

As part of a settlement agreement, NGL consented to pay a $5 million fine and stop its advertising targeting young people. The lawsuit also accused NGL of breaching children’s privacy laws by gathering data from children under 13 without parental consent. This serious infringement of children’s privacy sparked further allegations against the company. To resolve these issues, NGL has pledged to discontinue all advertising activities aimed at younger audiences.

FTC Chair Lina Khan committed to continually scrutinize and penalize companies that unlawfully exploit children. The sanction against NGL is a significant stride in the government’s endeavor to restrict harmful content for minors on tech platforms and prevent the illicit monetization of such content.

Pursuant to the settlement, NGL must bar users under 18 from using the app and delete all underage data unless it has parental consent. The app is also forbidden from making deceptive claims about its anti-cyberbullying capabilities or misrepresenting the sources of messages on its platform. This move follows similar actions taken against the creators of the popular video game ‘Fortnite’, who were accused of infringing children’s data privacy rights.

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