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In an extremely rare move, the Federal Trade Commission has ordered a popular messaging app from hosting users under the age of 18 to settle allegations of unfair marketing practices and exposure to cyberbullying.

The FTC’s settlement with “NGL: ask me anything” marks the first instance of the agency banning a messaging app from targeting minors. In addition to the ban, NGL Labs, LLC, and its co-founders, Raj Vir and Joao Figueiredo, are required to pay $5 million as part of the settlement.

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The complaint, jointly filed by the FTC and the Los Angeles District Attorney’s office, alleged that NGL made deceptive claims about its artificial intelligence (AI) content moderation, which purportedly filtered harmful messages but failed to do so effectively. The complaint also accused NGL of sending fake messages to users, tricking them into subscribing to a paid service under false pretenses. These messages, which appeared to come from real people, prompted users to purchase the NGL “pro version,” which allows users to reveal the identity of the senders.

FTC Chair Lina Khan commented on the news, saying, “NGL marketed its app to kids and teens despite knowing that it was exposing them to cyberbullying and harassment. In light of NGL’s reckless disregard for kids’ safety, the FTC’s order would ban NGL from marketing or offering its app to those under 18. We will keep cracking down on businesses that unlawfully exploit kids for profit.”

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Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascón reacted to the news, saying, “The consequences of these actions can be severe. The anonymity provided by the app can facilitate rampant cyberbullying among teens, causing untold harm to our young people.”

With the settlement in place, NGL is also required to implement an “age gate” to prevent users under 18 from accessing the app. Users are also prohibited from misrepresenting the sender of messages or the capabilities of its AI moderation system.

NGL Responds:
In a statement, NGL co-founder Joao Figueiredo said, “After nearly two years of cooperating with the FTC’s investigation, we view this resolution as an opportunity to make NGL better than ever for our users and we think the agreement is in our best interest. While we believe many of the allegations around the youth of our user base are factually incorrect, we anticipate that the agreed upon age-gating and other procedures will now provide direction for others in our space, and hopefully improve policies generally.”


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