Nintendo 3DS

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


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.

Ishaan Sahdev
Ishaan specializes in game design/sales analysis. He's the former managing editor of Siliconera and wrote the book "The Legend of Zelda - A Complete Development History". He also used to moonlight as a professional manga editor. These days, his day job has nothing to do with games, but the two inform each other nonetheless.