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FTC Bans NGL App from Users Under 18 in Landmark Settlement

 |  July 9, 2024

Federal regulators have made a decision to ban the digital platform NGL from serving users under the age of 18, accusing the app of misleading claims about its ability to combat cyberbullying. The settlement, reported by the Washington Post, marks the first time such a prohibition has been imposed on a digital platform by federal authorities.

NGL, an app widely used by children and teens, aggressively marketed its services to young users despite the inherent risks of bullying associated with its anonymous messaging feature. According to a complaint filed by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office, the app’s executives ignored user concerns about these risks, dismissing them as “suckers” and continuing their “bait-and-switch” tactics.

The complaint detailed how NGL tricked users into subscribing by sending them computer-generated messages that appeared to be from real people. These messages enticed users to pay up to $9.99 a week for a service that purported to reveal the real identities behind the messages. However, those who subscribed received only vague “hints,” often of dubious authenticity. The FTC and the District Attorney’s Office also charged that NGL violated children’s privacy laws by collecting data from users under 13 without parental consent.

In response to these allegations, NGL agreed to a $5 million settlement and to cease marketing to children and teens. This action represents a significant step in the federal government’s efforts to address the potential harm tech platforms pose to young users and to hold companies accountable for exploiting minors for profit.

FTC Chair Lina Khan, who has intensified scrutiny of the tech industry since her appointment in 2021, emphasized the importance of protecting children from unethical business practices. “We will keep cracking down on businesses that unlawfully exploit kids for profit,” Khan stated in an announcement.

Source: Washington Post