(The Hill) — Fairplay, a children’s online safety advocacy group, asked the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) on Thursday to investigate an anonymous messaging app.
In a Thursday complaint, Fairplay and Kristin Bride — a parent activist who lost her 16-year-old son, Carson, to suicide in 2020 — asked the FTC to probe Not Gonna Lie (NGL). The app allows users to post anonymous messages to others and can be connected to Snapchat and Instagram accounts.
Fairplay alleged that NGL heightens the risks of cyberbullying and is dangerous for teen users, which the group said the app targets. The group also accused NGL of using deceptive marketing, which Fairplay argued violates a federal ban on “unfair or deceptive” acts and pratices.
NGL lets users send anonymous messages to others, including messages through prompts offered by the platform. Users can access NGL through Instagram without having to make a separate account or username, and the platform instructs users on how to post links to Snapchat, Instagram and X, the platform formerly known as Twitter.
NGL offers a “Pro” version of the app with in-app purchases that it claims will reveal the identity of the message sender. However, Fairplay alleged that NGL is accepting users’ money in exchange for “useless ‘hints’ while quietly revealing to law enforcement in the fine print that it cannot ever reveal the identity of a user.”
“We urge the Commission to investigate this conduct as unfair and deceptive in violation of Section 5 of the FTC Act,” Fairplay policy counsel Haley Hinkle and Bride wrote in the complaint.
A spokesperson for Snapchat said the company amended its policies in 2022 to “prohibit apps that facilitate anonymous messaging, like NGL, from integrating with our platform. NGL, and other third-party apps that facilitate anonymous communications cannot use SnapKit to integrate with our platform.”
Fairplay executive director Josh Golin said that although Snapchat amended its policies to prevent integration with NGL, the anonymous messaging app does auto-generate a link from a user’s NGL question box that opens the user’s Snapchat app in order to post the link.
Spokespeople for NGL, X, and Instagram-parent company Meta did not respond to requests for comment.
The complaint called NGL the latest app in a “long line of anonymous messaging platforms that facilitate cyberbullying and have significant negative impact on young users’ mental health.”
Bride filed a lawsuit against anonymous messaging apps YOLO and LMK, which were also used through Snapchat, after her son died. Snapchat suspended the apps in May 2021, after the lawsuit, The Los Angeles Times reported.
Bride said that over the last decade, “anonymous apps have always led to teen cyberbullying and often suicides.”
“The fact that NGL has found a way to further profit from this harm is despicable and deserves the immediate attention of the Federal Trade Commission,” Bride said in a statement.