Nintendo Dumps Photo-Sharing Feature Due To 'Offensive' Images

What that means, well, we can only guess.

3DS On The Subway

John Mahoney

Up until last week, Nintendo offered a service called SpotPass for its 3DS game system. It was a pretty standard messaging app: 3DS owners could send text and (since an update in April) photos to other 3DS owners if they had the appropriate friend code (the 3DS equivalent of a chat name or email address). Now Nintendo's banned the service. What happened? Well, people were definitely sharing photos with it--but Nintendo didn't particularly like the photos they were sharing. From a note on the Nintendo site:

Nintendo has learned that some consumers, including minors, have been exchanging their friend codes on Internet bulletin boards and then using Swapnote (known as Nintendo Letter Box in other regions) to exchange offensive material. Nintendo has been investigating ways of preventing this and determined it is best to stop the SpotPass feature of Swapnote because it allows direct exchange of photos and was actively misused.

The company hasn't specified what that "offensive material" might be, and the wording in the announcement is a little vague. Were kids being spammed with "offensive material" after putting their codes on message boards? Were they themselves sending something offensive? What exactly does "offensive" mean here? The gaming company apologized for the mishap in the announcement, and said it would better highlight parental control options, where features like this can be banned.

This is one of the dangers of marketing a business as a kids-first company. No one gets upset at Gmail or Twitter when somebody spams them--or their children--something offensive. But when your business model is built around kids, it's a little harder to throw up your hands and say, We're just the means of communication here.