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FTC bans 'ask me anything' app for teen use

FTC bans 'ask me anything' app for teen use

Anonymous messaging apps like NGL: Ask Me Anything are attractive to curious teens who want to share unfiltered opinions or hear candid confessions from their peers.

But a new ruling by the Federal Trade Commission highlights how such apps can be weaponized against teen users through bullying, harassment and fraud. Often marketed as free, apps can incur varying costs, affecting consumers. Mental health.

According to the FTC, NGL, short for “not to lie,” knew about these and other damages. Tuesday, July 9, Agency announced that it has banned NGL Labs. Offering or marketing anonymous messaging apps to youth under the age of 18. This is the first time that the agency has issued such a ban.

“NGL marketed its app to children and teens knowing it was exposing them to cyberbullying and harassment,” FTC Chair Lena M. Khan said in a statement. NGL prohibits marketing or offering its app to people under the age of 18. We will continue to crack down on businesses that illegally exploit children for profit.”

At one point, in 2022, NGL was reportedly the most downloaded app in Apple's App Store, garnering millions of downloads, according to the FTC.

In a ___ Detailed complaint, the FTC alleged that NGL and its cofounders repeatedly charged consumers without obtaining proper consent. Falsely claimed that the app's AI content moderation revealed bullying and harassment. Deceived users with fake messages to increase the number of paid users. And actively market the app to children, despite knowing that similar services have harmed users. The complaint was filed by the FTC and the Los Angeles District Attorney's Office.

The defendants, including NGL co-founders Rajvir and Joao Figueiredo, agreed to pay $5 million to settle the case.

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NGL said The New York Times that many of the FTC's allegations were “factually false,” but that the company made necessary changes to the settlement.

“After nearly two years of cooperating with the FTC's investigation, we see this resolution as an opportunity to make NGL better than ever for our customers and we believe this settlement is in our best interests.” Times.

The FTC found that in order to increase downloads and engagement, NGL sent fraudulent computer-generated messages to consumers. These included questions such as “Are you straight?”, “Have you taken drugs?”, “Have you ever cheated?”, and “Have you ever had any surgery?” One message simply read, “I know what you did.”

Users believed that their friends or contacts had sent these messages. Some subscribed to the premium version of the app for $9.99 per week, lured by the company's promise that the sender would be revealed.

Users were not given the sender's name but instead were presented with “hints” about when the message was sent, whether the sender had an Android or iPhone, and the sender's location. When consumers complained, NGL executives privately laughed at them, according to the FTC complaint.

In a text message thread with Weir and Figueredo about the complaints, the company's product lead wrote “Lol suckers,” referring to customers who felt they had been cheated.

NGL also violated the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act. This federal regulation requires apps and online services intentionally used by children under the age of 13 to notify their parents about personal information collected from children and parents. Obtain verifiable consent.

Fair Play, a nonprofit organization that filed a complaint against NGL with the FTC last fall, praised the FTC's ruling in a statement..

“Big Tech does not have carte blanche to offer children products and features that are patently harmful and deceptive,” said Haley Hinkle, a Fair Play policy attorney.

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