A new system firmware update for the Nintendo Switch has seemingly expanded the console’s list of banned words to include references to child grooming and school shooters. According to a longtime Nintendo dataminer’s review of the latest changes, any users who may have had those terms in their Nintendo account handles saw the names automatically changed after updating their Switches to the latest firmware.
As previously reported, Nintendo maintains a “bad word” list to prohibit Switch users from making accounts that reference certain phrases that might be considered controversial or offensive. In 2020 the list was updated to add “Nazi,” “Slave,” “KKK,” “ACAB,” and “Covid,” among others. Throughout 2022 it grew to encompass more slurs, rude language, and various misspellings of Hitler. This past week, it was updated again.
“User nicknames that cannot be used will be replaced with “???” which can be updated from the profile settings,” reads the official patch notes on Nintendo’s website. However, according to longtime Switch dataminer OatmealDome, the full changes include adding more phrases to the ban list such as “groomer” and “salv8dor.” The first has become a popular phrase co-opted by conservatives to attack the rights of LGTBQ+ people, while the second is a reference to the gunman behind the Uvalde, Texas school shooting last year.
“A significant amount of controversial people and organizations were added as well, like ISIS, Adam Lanza (Sandy Hook shooter), Alek Minassian (Toronto van attack perpetrator), etc,” OatmealDome, who reviewed the update files, told Kotaku.
Steam has long dealt with users trying to pose as, or memorialize, the perpetrators of mass shootings, a pattern that’s harder to observe on a platform like Switch which lacks the ability to search for users or send them messages.
OatmealDome added that some terms already on the banned list were “adjusted for broader detection,” such as “ballsack,” “bong,” “chatroulette,” “cocaine,” “jackass,” “n19,” “semen,” and “testes,” while a couple, like Nazi, were moved specifically to the English-language section, possibly to prevent over-censorship in other languages.
It’s not clear how Nintendo decides when and what to ban, and whether those choices are driven by recent upticks in users attempting to deploy particular phrases or other factors. The company didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. But it’s far from the only gaming company moderating speech on its network. Microsoft infamously banned the term “Karen” in September 2020, though it later reversed course claiming it was a mistake.