the DL on NGL · ep. 38 · 10 for Teens + Tweens

The letters NGL with a "no" symbol (circle with backslash).

Whoo, technology trends are constantly changing. I’m thinking it may be helpful to periodically give you an update on what’s new and what to watch out for in the digital world.

What got me thinking about this is the latest anonymous message app called NGL, which stands for “Not Gonna Lie,” which, you may already know, is something people say when they’re giving their honest opinion–even when it’s harsh. The app was developed by the company DeepMoji.

The way NGL works is you download the app, connect your Instagram account, post your NGL link to your Insta stories, and anyone who sees it can respond anonymously–those messages go into your NGL app. While the app is free, you can pay to get hints on who responded.

An app that allows anyone to send anonymous messages–what could go wrong? Oh wait, it already has.

So Snapchat (a topic for another day) previously allowed other anonymous sharing apps Yolo and LMK, but Snap banned them last year after Snap was sued by a family of a teenage boy who was bullied through those apps. The reason NGL has recently surged in popularity is because it integrates with Instagram, which still allows anonymous sharing apps.

(italics added for emphasis)

NGL’s website markets their app as “a fun yet safe place to express your feelings and opinions without shame.” They claim they use “world class AI content moderation” to “filter out harmful language and bullying.” However, at the bottom of their FAQs it states, “In the event of an abusive message, tap on the report button. From there, you can block the sender, or email our safety team for additional help!”

In fact, NBC News reported they tested the app and common hurtful messages got through the NGL filter. And users that sent those messages could still send more messages even after being reported.

That’s all sorts of red flags–clearly they recognize and admit their app’s “world class AI content moderation” is going to miss stuff. How can they claim it’s safe then?

Unfortunately that’s just the tip of the red flag iceberg.

All you need to use NGL, either as a message receiver or message sender, is an Instagram account. Anyone can create an instagram account with just an email address. Which means anyone can also create another Instagram account by creating another email address–like for a troll account. If they’re sneaky and they keep those troll accounts completely separate from their personal accounts, they can anonymously bully others through NGL and never get caught–not even with the NGL hints people pay to find out who’s behind it, not even if they get reported to NGL’s safety team, because their fake Insta and email are not linked to them personally. And if you think I’m giving people bad ideas, sadly there are already plenty of tutorials on the web explaining troll tactics–that’s why I’m exposing this red flag. 

But wait–there’s more! In the NGL Terms of Service (which I doubt most users read through), “You represent that you are over the age of 18. The Company does not permit those under 18 to use the Service.” That sounds okay, yet they specifically instruct users to share their NGL link on Insta Stories. Instagram requires its users to be at least 13 years old, so NGL knows there are non-18 year olds using Instagram. Despite this, NGL does not even verify its users’ ages. THE KICKER is, in the Apple app store, NGL is rated for ages 12+! But the Terms of Service say users have to be 18? Make it make sense!

Now the Content Restrictions section, first sentence, “The Company (NGL) is not responsible for the content of the Service’s users.” What they’re saying is, if people send hurtful messages or do hurtful things with their app, don’t blame NGL.

Next sentence, “You expressly understand and agree that You are solely responsible for the Content and for all activity that occurs under your account, whether done so by You or any third person using Your account.” Remember–all you need to use NGL is an Instagram account. NGL doesn’t verify that the Instagram handle someone entered actually belongs to them. So anyone who knows your Instagram handle can create an NGL account with it and get a link and pretend to be you. And if they said anything hurtful or did anything else wrong, you’re responsible because they used your Instagram account.

IT GETS WORSE. After defining objectionable content, “As the Company cannot control all content posted by users and/or third parties on the Service, you agree to use the Service at your own risk. You understand that by using the Service You may be exposed to content that You may find offensive, indecent, incorrect or objectionable, and You agree that under no circumstances will the Company be liable in any way …

This all sure sounds safe–for NGL. They’ve eliminated any responsibility on their part despite the irresponsibility this app allows.

On to the Limitation of Liablity section. A limitation of liability clause essentially limits the amount of money that someone can sue a company for. “Notwithstanding any damages that You might incur, the entire liability of the Company… shall be limited to the amount actually paid by You through the Service or 100 USD if You haven’t purchased anything through the Service. … in no event shall the Company or its suppliers be liable for any special, incidental, indirect, or consequential damages whatsoever (including, but not limited to, … personal injury, loss of privacy …) … even if the Company or any supplier has been advised of the possibility of such damages and even if the remedy fails of its essential purpose.”

So if someone is bullied through this app and other bad stuff happens, it’s not only not NGL’s problem, they’ll only pay $100 if that person seeks legal action, no matter what happened because of their app.

But their website said it’s “a fun yet safe place to express your feelings and opinions without shame.” Except NGL knows it’s not safe, knows there’s plenty of risk the way they’ve designed the app, and because of this, they’re refusing all liability and responsibility. How can they claim it’s safe then?

With all of those red flags, NGL is not worth the risk. Don’t use it. When, not if, when something bad happens, NGL won’t have your back. They’re obviously not interested in being accountable, so why trust a company that can’t even trust itself?

Like I said earlier, the digital world is constantly evolving, which is why media literacy is crucial for you to develop. I’m working on creating virtual media literacy workshops, so if you’re interested in learning more, get on the email list at EmpowerfulGirls.com (spelled), and you’ll get notified about virtual media literacy workshops, upcoming events, podcast episodes, freebies, etc.

If you have a topic suggestion, I’d love to hear from you! Send an email (tweens get the OK from your parents) to [email protected] .

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