October 19, 2023. Advocates request Federal Trade Commission investigation of anonymous social media app

Thursday, October 19, 2023


Josh Golin, Fairplay: [email protected] 

Advocates request Federal Trade Commission investigation of anonymous social media app

Children’s advocacy and tech accountability group Fairplay files complaint alongside parent advocate alleging illegal and manipulative practices by anonymous messaging app NGL

BOSTON, MA – THURSDAY, October 19, 2023 – Today, advocates urged the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to investigate Not Gonna Lie (NGL), an anonymous messaging app popular with teens, for its manipulative practices. Advocacy group Fairplay and parent activist Kristin Bride filed the complaint, which alleges that the NGL app not only uses unfair and deceptive business practices, but is also dangerous to the teen users it targets.

NGL claims that it allows teens to have “a space to share their feelings without judgment from friends or societal pressures.” In their complaint, however, the advocates note that NGL is simply the latest in a long line of anonymous messaging apps plagued by content moderation and safety issues. A growing body of research shows that anonymity can exacerbate cyberbullying frequency and intensity, which in turn is linked to serious risks such as mental health harms and suicidality. The advocates’ complaint argues that NGL should have been aware of these risks and shouldn’t have marketed its app to young people.

In 2020, Kristin Bride’s son Carson died by suicide after being ruthlessly bullied on LMK and Yolo, two apps that allowed users to send anonymous messages over Snap. While those apps have gone out of business, NGL –  which allows users to solicit anonymous messages on Instagram, Snapchat, and X (formerly Twitter) – is marketed heavily to teens.  

“I lost my 16-year-old son Carson to suicide after he was viciously cyberbullied over anonymous apps marketed to teens. The last desperate search on his phone was for hacks to find out who was sending him the tormenting messages,” said Kristin Bride, survivor parent activist. “It was extremely concerning to learn that a new anonymous app, NGL hit the market and found a way to further monetize their dangerous product by charging vulnerable teens for useless hints regarding who is sending them the messages. Over the last decade, anonymous apps have always led to teen cyberbullying and often suicides. The fact NGL has found a way to further profit from this harm is despicable and deserves the immediate attention of the Federal Trade Commission.”

In addition to the heightened risk of cyberbullying, the advocates outlined how NGL takes advantage of users’ desire to deanonymize message senders by marketing its paid “Pro” plan. While NGL’s marketing strongly suggests that by paying for the app, users can discover the identities of anonymous message senders, NGL itself has admitted that it has no way of knowing the identity of a message sender. 

“It is beyond the pale that NGL is offering kids and teens a product that has time and again proven deeply harmful, and along the way, they are profiting off of the young users who just want to know who is tormenting them,” said Haley Hinkle, Fairplay Policy Counsel and complaint author. “As the Federal Trade Commission demonstrated in its landmark settlement with Epic Games, tech companies are responsible for product features that demonstrably harm kids and teens. We urge the Commission to protect young people and prevent future tragedies by holding NGL accountable for its unfair and deceptive practices.”