July 11, 2024

No more lies - FTC bans minors from NGL app

Article link copied.

slide image

The FTC has banned anonymous messaging app NGL from serving users under 18.

Picture by: Zuzanna Bialecka

On July 9, 2024, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) began to take actionagainst NGL Labs, LLC and its cofounders, Raj Vir and Joao Figueiredo for several law violations, including unfairly marketing services to children and teens. The defendants will pay $5mn to settle the lawsuit and are banned from offering the NGL app to minors.

Back in October of 2023, the FTC was probed by Fairplay,an NGO aimed at stopping marketing for children, to look into the app not gonna lie(NGL) and its founders. The app allowed users to post messages anonymously to each other, with accounts connected through Instagram and Snapchat. Through the app, links can be generated and posted onto Instagram stories or shared, which people can then send in messages or questions to which the user can reply.

NGL Pro, a paid subscription service, can also reveal hints about who sent the messages, and further payment may result in the sender’s username. In 2022, users found out that the app was generating messages from fake peers for users without enough engagement, and NGL quietly updated their app to change this feature.

Alongside Fairplay, activist Kristin Bride alleged that cyberbullying and deceptive marketing were key parts of the NGL app, putting minors at risk of harassment. Bride had already sued similar apps, YOLO and LMK back in 2021 after her 16 year-old son had committed suicide after facing anonymous cyberbullying. Snapchat later suspended the apps.

In their complaint, the FTC and Los Angeles DA’s Office cite that NGL allegedly uses ‘fake messages to drive engagement with the NGL app’. These fake messages would trick users into signing up for the paid subscriptions by falsely promising that it would reveal the identity of the senders.

Marketing gone wrong

NGL marketed the app as a way for teens to make friends online ‘in a fun and safe way’ and claimed to use ‘Hive Moderation complex AI algorithms’ to combat cyberbullying, however, these claims have been proven to be false.

NGL also failed to disclose terms and obtain consent for recurring charges on NGL Pro. The app claims that the identities of senders will be revealed, but only hints were provided, such as the type of device the message was sent from, time and in some cases location. Some of these hints were even proved to be false. All of this violates the Restore Online Shoppers’ Confidence Act (ROSCA).

Furthermore, NGL aggressively marketed its app to teens and children. Figueiredo said the company’s product led to the use of high school kids to grow their users, and that the best way was to ‘reach out on [Instagram] by finding popular girls on high school cheer [Instagram] pages.’ Even with the knowledge that these types of apps are known to be harmful to children, as YOLO and LMK were proven to be.

Now, not only are NGL and its co-founders banned from marketing anonymous messaging apps to kids and teens under 18, but it also requires them to pay $4.5mn dollars to compensate its consumers. They also need to pay a $500,000 civil penalty to the LA DA’s office.

NGL is now required to implement a neutral age gate that prevents new and current users from accessing the app if they are minors, as well as delete all personal information of users under the age of 13 unless they obtain parental consent. NGL is also prohibited from sending misrepresenting messages and making false claims about their AI technologies.

Written by:


Christian Yeung

Society editor

Hong Kong | United States

Born in 2006 in Hong Kong, Christian Yeung studies at the Taft School in Connecticut. His interests range from playing video games such as The Last of Us and Sekiro, listening to vinyls, and cooking anything from Tonkotsu ramen to crêpe suzette. He loves English and history as well as reading and writing intriguing stories.

He joined the Harbingers’ Editorial Board as a Society editor, encapsulating his many interests which he continues to find more of every day.

He speaks Cantonese, English and Mandarin.

In partnership with:


Create an account to continue reading

A free account will allow you to bookmark your favourite articles and submit an entry to the Harbinger Prize 2024.

You can also sign up for the Harbingers’ Weekly Brief newsletter.