Fairplay applauds FTC enforcement action against peer-messaging app NGL

July 9, 2024


Ashwin Verghese
717 676 8584
[email protected]


Fairplay applauds FTC enforcement action against peer-messaging app NGL

Washington, DC – July 9, 2024Fairplay applauds the Federal Trade Commission’s groundbreaking enforcement action against NGL following a complaint Fairplay and survivor parent Kristin Bride made about the app targeting kids with a dangerous product and deceptive marketing. NGL is a “question-and-answer” app that encourages young users to solicit anonymous messages from their social media friends and followers.

The enforcement action—which will force NGL (“Not Gonna Lie”) Labs to prohibit minors from using the app and return $4.5 million to customers it unlawfully charged—is an exemplary use of the FTC’s authority under Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act to address tech platforms’ unfair design features that exploit kids and teens.

Haley Hinkle, Fairplay’s policy counsel, said: “Today the Commission has demonstrated once again that tech companies will be held responsible for their obligations to kids and teens under the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) and the FTC Act. Big Tech does not have carte blanche to offer children products and features that are demonstrably harmful and deceptive. Fairplay applauds the commission’s swift action in addressing its complaint and pursuing NGL’s blatant regulatory violations, and we urge all anonymous peer messaging platforms to take notice. These products should not be targeted to minors.”

Survivor parent Kristin Bride said: “We have known for over a decade that anonymous apps marketed to teens lead to cyberbullying and, in many cases, a suicide like what happened to my 16-year-old son Carson in 2020. This dangerous business model keeps kids engaged while struggling to identify their unknown harassers so that these companies can profit from more data collection. It is unconscionable that NGL would not only charge vulnerable teens for useless hints as to who was messaging them but that the developers themselves were sending harassing messages to teens and joking about it as parents expressed cyberbullying concerns.”

FTC complaint

The settlement follows a complaint Fairplay and Bride made in October 2023 calling for the FTC to investigate NGL, saying the app was “marketing a type of digital product that is well-documented as dangerous for teens and kids.”

Anonymous messaging apps “consistently result in widespread cyberbullying and abusive content,” the complaint says, noting that cyberbullying is “closely associated with negative mental health outcomes, including increased suicidality.”

NGL went further than other anonymous messaging platforms, however, by marketing in-app purchases that falsely promised to reveal the identity of message-senders. In reality, those purchases only provided useless “hints,” and NGL admitted in resources for law enforcement that it could never reveal the identity of a user, the complaint says. 

Kids Online Safety Act 

Before filing the FTC complaint, Bride wrote Instagram’s public policy director Karina Newton in fall 2022 to express her concerns about NGL’s risks and deceptive practices and to make Newton aware that NGL was using Instagram stories to go viral. 

Bride urged Meta, Instagram’s parent company, to ban NGL on Instagram. The company did not respond.  

Tech platforms ignoring concerns over children’s safety illustrates the need for more legislation to hold them accountable.

Fairplay and ParentsSOS, a network of survivor parents that includes Bride, strongly support the Kids Online Safety Act, a bill that can save kids’ lives by eliminating online platforms’ addictive design features and establishing a “duty of care” to ensure their design is not causing certain harms to children, including cyberbullying. 

“If KOSA had been law, Meta wouldn’t have allowed NGL to connect to Instagram, thereby saving untold children from bullying and harassment,” added Bride. “Congress must pass KOSA and force social media platforms to consider the harmful effects of their design choices.”


Fairplay is the leading nonprofit organization committed to helping children thrive in an increasingly commercialized, screen-obsessed culture, and the only organization dedicated to ending marketing to children. Fairplay works to enhance children’s wellbeing by eliminating the exploitative and harmful business practices of marketers and Big Tech. Learn more at https://fairplayforkids.org/.