Report: Child Predators Used The Nintendo 3DS Swapnote Service In Japan

By Ishaan . November 5, 2013 . 11:35pm

Last week, without warning, Nintendo terminated the Swapnote service for the Nintendo 3DS, which allows 3DS owners to exchanges hand-written messages and photographs with their registered friends over the Internet. A recent report by two Japanese publications might provide further insight as to why this happened.


When Nintendo terminated Swapnote service, they mentioned that they had learnt that certain 3DS owners, including minors, were using the application to exchange offensive material over the Internet. According to a new report by Yomiuri Online (translated by Kotaku), two men aged 49 and 36 in Japan were recently arrested for performing “improper acts” with a 12-year-old girl on multiple occasions. The girl met both individuals through her Nintendo 3DS.


Meanwhile, Mainichi reports a separate incident, and this one mentions the Swapnote application by name. According to Mainichi’s report, charges for child pornography have been filed against a 44-year-old man who had two girls—aged 11 and 12 at the time—send him nude photographs via Swapnote. The man has since confessed to the incident.


It’s also worth noting that none of these cases appears to have arisen as a result of irresponsible parenting. Both Yomiuri and Mainichi mention that the parents of these children had turned the Nintendo 3DS’ Internet functionality off, but that the children had managed to turn it back on. (However, just what measures the parents took have not been detailed.) Additionally, Mainichi mentions that there are other reports of predators using Swapnote to prey on children as well.


Nintendo have not yet commented on whether the aforementioned incidents were connected to the termination of Swapnote. Neither have they announced if they plan to replace the Swapnote application with an alternative or if they will be strengthening the 3DS’ parental controls in the future.

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  • …ew.

  • DS23

    ..well, that certainly explains that then. Gross.

    • Ric Vazquez

      Yeah, pervs and pedos everywhere

  • Syde Tokai

    hmm. this is…hmm

  • Revolver Jesus Super Pimp

    Sick motherf**kers……

  • James Enk

    everyone should do whatever they can do stop acts like this, and every company that provides services similar to swapnote should take measures to ensure the safety of the users

  • Ferrick

    and with this, i can conclude that the world hasn’t gone to shit, it’s already in it, and sinking deeper and deeper…

    • Tiredman

      Not entirely sure about that actually. The only difference between now and 20 years ago is information. In the past, we learned what we learned through newspapers and tv. Now we get far more news than is healthy for some, but it lets us see far more of the seedier segments of the world since it can’t be hidden behind people with pens.

    • Pedophilia isn’t really anything new (as much as this grosess me out and dissapoints me).

      A better way to put it: the world has been always been shit.

      • But, that’s basically what he said. And it’s been sinking into it since time immemorial.

        • Oh I misunderstood. ;)
          Took it more like “it’s not we’re getting worse; we’re already the worst”.

  • fyi1191

    Those guys are beyond horrible.
    And this is probably the main reason they terminate SwapNote.

    • handsome human

      Beyond horrible yes I agree but to terminate the entire service just because of this is a blown out of proportion reaction. Certainly there is better way to handle this.

      • Laer_HeiSeiRyuu

        They had to cut the people from contact.
        People got shady folks on their friend lists

        • This would be way way more manageable if there was an account system.
          I wish things like this would make them reconsider their internet approach.

          • Laer_HeiSeiRyuu

            Indeed, that is why they’re going to implement one. I mean they have the basic set up with Club Nintendo you know.Miiverse should come soon

    • CycloneFox

      You can have two consequences out of this: First, an app like SwapNote is a bad idea on a kids handheld, and so you need to terminate SwapNote completely, like Nintendo did.
      But this is just plain stupid for mature players. But then again, you have to be aware, of such things, if you buy a Nintendo-Handheld anyway.

      Or second, a friendlist needs parental control. I think the Vita added some good aspects with the latest firmware update. Nintendo needs the destinction between adult and children accounts. And children accounts would need permissions to add friends and to be deactivated on the device.

  • Carlos Luis Ayala

    This is why we can’t ever have nice things free :-/

  • JustThisOne

    I see… *sigh* Maybe they could have some kind of messaging service that only uses drawings and text – with no pictures?

    • benhofb

      Like ye old pictochat?

      • Anesia Hunter

        But then it’ll get shut down due to sexting.

  • Repede91

    This kinda justifies Nintendo`s stodgy approach to community features online. Because, of two assholes we all can no longer use a cool application. Hope the girls are okay. Wonder how they disabled the parental controls???

    • Audie Bakerson

      Sadly, knowing the tech problems I’ve had to help with, it’s fully possible “turned the Nintendo 3DS’ Internet functionality off” was “used the wireless communications switch, and probably didn’t even hold it long enough”

  • Heriel

    I always thought that nintendo was right on closing the service if people were being assholes, but this is far worse than I thought

  • Heisst

    These things happen all the time with every other messaging system but you don’t see any other company removing the entire system off, screwing everyone.

    • Tiredman

      Every other system isn’t marketed to kids and have a very large portion of units sold being played by kids.

      • John Diamond

        i think you can’t turn off swapnote too right?

        • Tiredman

          No clue, have a 3ds, but never really play around with everything on it other than just the games and digital store.

        • JohnNiles

          You should have been able to activate it. I think I had to opt-in to use it, in fact.

      • Shippoyasha

        It may be a marketing issue to be sure. That said, even little kids use Facebook and Twitter nowadays and there’s a lot more exposure to the risque and outright predatory behavior on most social networks these days. I think kids ought to be educated on how to deal with predatory behavior online at a younger age. It doesn’t make any sense to think they will have absolutely zero access all the time. Much like how kids used to be strictly taught on how to deal with stranger danger on the streets, now people need to do that online as well. Unless you’re somehow successful totally cutting a child from the Internet. Which sounds almost impossible to me, as kids can merely borrow other kids’ devices, go online at their friends’ house or in a library.

        • ForteWily

          You know the difference between Twitter and Facebook compared to Swapnote? Some measure of moderation. Granted, both Facebook and Twitter use both methods of such (opt-in reports, and general system observation) and barely get it all… but in both cases, something is in place to handle issues like this where Nintendo had nothing other than a large off switch.

          To be honest, Nintendo does have a system that can handle moderation of this kind in Miiverse. And given the state of the internet… it’s necessary.

        • Tiredman

          Problem with kids is they aren’t evil when they are kids. They may be brats, and a handful, but they are just kids. You can teach them stuff, but trying to get them to take it seriously doesn’t happen until they realize the seriousness of what can happen. This usually doesn’t happen till the double digit ages.

          As for twitter, facebook and so on, it is a parent’s responsibility to watch out for that. So many parent’s don’t have a clue what the world is like now, and they use that as an excuse to not pay attention and blame any problems down the line on technology. Twitter and Facebook are not for kids. Far as I know, you have to have a parents permission just to sign up for it, and I am absolutely positive no kids lie about their age……

          Nintendo just needs to make some hardcore parental controls.

          • Shippoyasha

            Well, I was at least as young as 5 or 6 years old when I got the life lessons about being wary of strangers and it stuck with me for life. I think kids are way more capable of understanding these things than people think. Though I agree it would be preferable if kids can learn it at age 10+, but that’s kind of being optimistic as I see it. Parents, no matter how controlling, can only control so much once kids start having access.

          • Tiredman

            Yeah, parents have to up their game. Companies also have to be responsible and create better parental controls and the parents have to learn about them. As for young kids, they are still forming pre double digits. They may be able to learn, but law doesn’t charge minors for a reason, they have an idea about right and wrong, they just aren’t very good at practicing it or applying it correctly to many situation.

      • *Kid goes to SwapNote*

        NEW MAIL!

        “…is that a new Pokemon?”

        Oh God, no.

      • Sangaz

        A fair few of these kids in japan do these kind of things knowing full well that it is very wrong. They do it for the money and they will just find another place to interact with these pedo’s now that Swapnote is gone.

      • Heisst

        Every other messaging system has children in it, more so than the 3DS by far obviously since it’s used by EVERYONE like Facebook and Skype. Hell there’s a whole tv show dedicated to catching said predators online, you don’t see the system being removed because people have the common sense to blame it on the predators themselves, never is the company in question poked at since they have things like parental controls (which the parents in this case didn’t bother to use).

    • Herok♞

      True but this could be Nintendo saving face now that these reports are out, this is what paranoid news outlets were taking about happening with pictochat and I don’t think there are any situations where you here about this happening with any other gaming device lie the case of this one.

    • ronin4life

      Those other messaging systems are most likely not run by the same people who sell the device they are played on, and most are monitored so individuals can be shut down.
      This was a non monitored, Nintendo provided service on a Nintendo provided console.

  • Punny Fuzz

    Honestly that’s just terrible, and pretty gross.

    And I do hope Nikki can find a new home!

    Her journey can’t end here!

    • Virevolte

      It was a real character ?
      Hop ! Smash Bros. casting then.

    • ShawnOtakuSomething

      nintendo should add her to the 3DS menu like a desktop buddy. She could tell you news, updates sings happy Birthday melody when its your ECT….

      • Juan Manuel M. Suárez

        Looks like Velma from Scooby..what the heck~.

        • ShawnOtakuSomething

          lol I say she look like an older Chie from persona 4

  • revenent hell

    Im not surprised by this at all.

    Devices now a days try their hardest to “connect” people by any and all means and I’m more shocked by the fact that it takes something like this to happen before it is reminded to people there are others out there who don’t have “pure ” intentions when using anything that has the ability to connect you to them .

    While I’m disgusted by this its probably a good reminder for everyone that perhaps adding things in to devices that have the potential to introduce you to random strangers should be thought out a little bit more before its implemented , especially if people know it may end up in a child’s hands.

    Children tend to be more tech savvy than their parents now a days so its not a surprise they could get the internet working for he device. I just think when developers think of “new” things to add to their systems they should be a little bit wiser, the world is not a safe place and while I don’t think everyone should have to suffer for the actions of others it would probably be wise to have more than one safety lock in place.

    Like have the app have a separate parental code to use before it’ll launch or not allow it to contact someone unless they are on a approved friend list that the parent would have codes for or something along those lines…..

  • Pichu0102

    By turning off the internet connection, do they mean flipping the WiFi switch, or using actual parental controls with a strong passcode that a minor wouldn’t be able to easily break, and never giving them that code ever for any reason?

    I’m guessing it’s the former.

    • Mrgrgr and Unacceptable World

      From the translation, it does mention that the parents already locked the internet capabilities with passwords however as everyone should know, Spotpass feature for certain apps needs to be deactivated manually. So maybe thats what here.T_T

      • Pichu0102

        If Internet access is locked via parental controls on a device, then the device should automatically deactivate any programs given permission to access the Internet before the lock, and from that point on, only allow newly whitelisted applications to have net access. If what you’re saying is true, Nintendo dropped the ball hard here and probably needs to take a refresher course in Security and Permissions 101.

  • Pichu0102

    To add insult to injury, Nintendo of America has removed e-mailing them from their website for support. You can still get to the webform via Google, but I doubt it will be answered anymore. When the going got tough, Nintendo got going, brave, brave, Nintendo.

  • hazelnut1112

    I hope those scumbags feel good about themselves.
    They killed of Nikki ;_;

  • Odin

    It’s funny how we hear about these cases all the time, but does anyone really take the time to actually question why the majority of them are reported over in Japan?

    Beyond the simple notions of it being a busy country, or the excuse that “Oh, just because it’s Japan”. Because quite honestly, I don’t really think we can fully put the blame on Nintendo’s Swapnote service or even the pedophiles.

    What we don’t actually look at is the victim’s own psychological profile. Because do people believe that if someone were normal, they’d do these things willingly?

    Because if so, the media, and the majority of consumers are looking at it the wrong way.

    • Virevolte

      For this case, I think it’s simply because this kind of use of the 3DS is more popular/common in Japan.

      But there’s those problems probably everywhere… and for each one that we’ve heard of, there must be dozens that’s remain unheard.

      Sad thought…

    • Tiredman

      I don’t know, I heard about many of them out of Japan with the DS. I remember reading about a Priest who sold his DS to a gamestop, a kid bought it and the kid and parents found child pornography on it. Police tracked the priest down through gamestop since they take information on people who sell systems, so I hear.

      I think saying you hear more about it in Japan just means you and others don’t pay attention to the rest of the world. The biggest reason that is probably the case here is we are gamers on a gaming website, and when news like this comes up, if it took place in Italy, there is a much smaller chance of hearing about it versus the Granddaddy of gaming Japan.

  • Go2hell66

    All they had to do was replace Nikki with a Chris Hansen Mii

    • Sentsuizan_93

      “Why don’t you take a seat?”

      • John Diamond

        ‘what were you going to do to that child’

        • Freakmasta

          You said, ‘I’m going to blank your blank and blank it with my blank.’

  • Max

    It mentions they turned the internet off, wich equals moving the Wi-fi slider up.
    It doesn’t mention they made responsible use of the parental controls.

  • HyperDrive

    knew this would happen when they first announce swapnote specially the part where you send pictures. But still this is FUCK!!!UP!!!SSHHIIIIITTTT!!!

  • Prinnydoom

    I was wondering why they got rid of this. Considering the events that transpired i can see why they would get rid of swap note. Way to ruin a fun way of communication you sick sick bastards.

  • Sentsuizan_93

    Well, when explained like that, I guess it’s an understandable move. But to terminate a service because of a select few thinking it’s a good idea to exchange indecent images is kind of harsh in a sense.
    It’s like giving a whole class detention because a select few were messing around when they were asked to pay attention to the teacher. It’s unfair, and I think this could have been dealt with in a better way, like removing the camera feature to avoid such images being sent.

    But nope. Some people just can’t help themselves and let their perverted desires take over, and ultimately ruin the fun. And as someone who has never used this service, I am saddened by the resulting consequence of the removal. I really wanted to use that service…. :(

    • Tiredman

      There is a huge difference actually when you take into account this isn’t an adult oriented handheld but an everybody oriented handheld.

      To expand on your example, its like a teacher molesting two of their students in a school of 200 and due to that all teachers have to go through rigorous background checks and have a no tolerance policy instated. You have to ask yourself, do you want to risk more children, or deal with a bit of hassle?

      When it comes down to it, Nintendo has a reputation and an image to uphold, and having the 3ds labeled as a predator tool is probably one of the top 3 things Nintendo doesn’t want labeled on the system or their name.

      Normally I agree that because something happens to a handful of people in a world of billions, it should not really be allowed to affect the world of the billions, but this is a threat to millions out of 13, I think, million.

      • Shippoyasha

        I think it’d make sense to age-restrict or parent-control the service depending on how the guardian feels about their children’s adaptability in handling situations against predators. I personally don’t think taking the service out is the only avenue, though I can understand the reason why Nintendo would do so. They were plenty hesitant about online features and toxic online communities for a long time.

        • Tiredman

          Agreed on parental controls, and I think it needed removed, until they either think of a way to fix the problems it had, or create a new program to do the functionality that is safe for it to do. I can’t say too much about it though, I never used it, didn’t even have the urge to test drive it.

      • Throze

        Actually it’s more like a teacher molesting two of their students in a school of 200 and then the school is closed.

        • Tiredman

          Actually, that would be the case if Nintendo shut off all online functionality of the 3ds =p

  • I’ll quote one of my favorite argentinian characters: “Today I learned truth dissapoints people”

    I can’t believe people sometimes…


      mafalda <3

    • Juan Manuel M. Suárez

      Thumbs up for knowing Mafalda~.

    • Ric Vazquez

      Muy cierto lamentablemente

  • British_Otaku

    With my little and unsuccessful experience with Swapnote, it seemed as likely to be useful for child predators as PictoChat ( ).

    At the very least, I guess they are taking action on something real, but there will always be room for this to happen as long as communication is possible through 3DS software from voice to photos to drawings to text. >_>

    • TheAquacharger

      Wait. The DS works from more then 200 FT away and yet I can’t connect to my friends for a game of MH from 30 FT away on my 3DS? The hell is this?

  • ShawnOtakuSomething

    This is why we can’t have nice things because of Sickos using something child friendly to send……..oh wait….

    • Just Tim

      Equally sick to that is teenage girls, pretending to be adults on the internet. Mind you, even my high school crush was rumored to be going out with a 22-year old man, while she was 14 and I was 15.

      Heck, I know someone in real life that was a victim of 1 of the 2 girls who pretended to be an adult in the internet, to the point BOTH of them successfully joked about one of them, committing suicide. When the guy found out the hard way he got pranked and was a victim of defamation of character (read: being accused as a pedo behind his back, to the point both girls sent people that their victim knew in real life and rubbed it to his face), he managed to out one of the girls in front of her face.

      As for the 2nd girl, she’s claiming to be a college student at Sacramento State, lacking tuition payments to the point she pulled this elaborate scam off.

      If my friend were born a girl, this easily meant a catfight.

  • Mrgrgr and Unacceptable World

    This is probably the best example on how a single drip of black ink can destroyed the whole white base here.T_T

  • Espoir

    Nikki should get a game in where she attacks old people trying to assault little kids.

  • hickorypan

    I suppose I understand why they did it. I feel a little bit bad for criticizing Nintendo for terminating the service in an earlier comment. If this was happening right now at this very moment, I’d want to immediately shut it down too.

    I hope Nikki finds a new home somewhere. I grew quite attached to her. Maybe she can become the eShop’s mascot or something. Let’s hope she becomes a trophy in Smash 4 at least.

    • I do think Nintnedo will find a new home for Nikki. They’re pretty well aware of how attached people had gotten to her. She might just become part of Miiverse in the future.

  • Izzy Miyake

    Hey guys, I FOUND HER!

  • Aaronrules380

    So basically, it was exactly as I expected when they shut the service down. Did people seriously think Nintendo was shutting down the service because of stuff like crude penis drawings and not this type of blatant sexual predator type stuff?

  • JohnNiles

    Those of you questioning the severity of Nintendo’s response, imagine the look on Iwata’s face (or if it helps, Miyamoto’s face) when he received the news. He probably smashed the Cancel Swapnote button (like the inverse of the approval button from GaoGaiGar).

    • M’iau M’iaut

      With the speed of how this happened, I would fully expect it was just that situation. One of those two got word of these incidents from Japanese law enforcement or whomever and said — take it down.

  • Jettythesunfish

    Honestly, of all the moronic things to use a GAME SYSTEM FOR! Geez, this is why we can’t have good things.

  • Shady Shariest

    “These are the Darkest Days of all” sings Dog Fashion Disco…
    To be honest, i was pretty sure it was something like this that caused Nintendo to shut the service… Shame that there were victims >.<

  • mike dickson

    sigh it was bound to happen eventually

  • fireemblembeast

    So…are we getting back good old’ pictochat? ^_^;

  • JNT

    Just like my japanese doujin!

    Ok no joking here, I just want the Swapnote back, it is unfair to punish all the 3DS users for what a couple of individuals do.

    For one, instead of terminating the service they could have only taken the feature to send pictures, kept it drawings only.

    • Kelohmello

      There’s a large problem with thinking of this as a punishment for the actions of a couple of people. Nintendo doesn’t want this feature, or the 3Ds to be associated with pedophilia or any sort of illegal activity in any way. Taking it off completely is the smartest choice. Then, they can reintroduce it at a later time, maybe even under a different name, with a different implementation. At the least taking it off right now tells the public that they recognize something bad happened and they’re taking measures to make sure these things don’t happen again.

  • Khoko

    There is no excuse for the beyond hasty removal of an app many of people used and certainly not for any single isolated indecent. These things happen and will continue to happen. With or without Swapnote. Disable the picture share option. It’s really just that simple.

  • Will Jay

    Like I’ve been saying since they said they were shutting Swapnote down. It was clearly obvious this was the case, but everyone else figured it was just drawn porn or something.

  • Technically, there was a warning message sent to all users. It was a message about “Please don’t send messages or images through the services that may make someone feel uncomfortable”, etc.

    Doesn’t make this any less sad for everyone…

    I’m gonna miss Nikki, she was adorable :(

  • Ronldbx6

    I never even got to use sawpnote, darnit!

    • ShadowDivz

      Me neither.

  • I still don’t believe this justifies shutting down the entire application.
    It isn’t Nintendo’s job or concern what people use the feature for or if anyone misuses it.
    Oh well, things happen. I can’t find myself agasp, to be completley honest. Things like this will always go on, because that’s just how life is.
    They could have at least just disabled sending actual photos.

  • ShadowDivz

    3DS: the key to loli lovin’.

  • Lucas

    This side effect may attend the site Aika Village from Animal Crossing New Leaf,isn’t it?Doll with axe.

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