November 21, 2011
Pakistan Mulling Ban On Obscene Words In Text Messages
A move to ban a long list of so-called “dirty words” from all text messages by the Pakistan Telecommunications Association (PTA) has been delayed by Pakistani mobile operators today who are seeking for further clarification from the telecoms authority.
The PTA instructed mobile operators to block more than 1,000 words and phrases it deemed obscene from text messages on Pakistani-owned cell phones today. The list of words, obtained by French news agency AFP, included such racy terms as “flatulence,” “quickie” and “pocket pool.” The list was distributed to mobile operators on November 14 and instructed they had seven days to comply with the ruling, but many have many have threatened the PTA with legal action.
Although the PTA has previously blocked websites deemed pornographic or offensive to Islam, this marks the first time the country has moved to block text messages. After long deliberations and consultation, PTA officials came up with more than 50 phrases using the "f-word" and 17 more with the word “butt.” In total the authority came up with close to 1,500 words and phrases deemed too explicit to be used in text messages.
The list, which did in fact carry many sexually explicit words and phrases, also included some words that even the most refined minds would consider tame. Although some Pakistanis have expressed their delight and gratitude for the telecoms authority℠s move, saying the list has taught them so many forbidden words and has provided a source of amusement.
Some inclusions in the list do make sense, but not all can always be thought of as obscene. You can judge for yourself -- deeper, harder, looser, lesbian, gay, virgin, homosexual, intercourse, crap, damn, hobo, fart, idiot, drunk, murder, hostage, mango, lavender, breast, tongue, penthouse, etc. are just some of those words included in the list.
Some words that are definitely racier include “beat your meat,” flogging the dolphin” and “monkey crotch.” The list also included 51 phrases with the suffix “ass” and even one variation of the word “arse.” There were 17 inclusions containing the word “tit” 33 with the word “cock,” and who knows why, but 8 obscene words and phrases with the word “foot” also made the list.
Many of these words have rarely, if ever, turned up in a Pakistani tweet or text message, but since the unofficial release of the list, Pakistanis are now reveling in repeating many of the phrases online using the tag #PTAbannedlist.
“As expected, the #PTABannedList has made its way all over Pakistan, & kids are swearing more elaborately & frequently than ever. Well done,” tweeted Pakistani Wali Tirmizi.
“I think #PTA just enhanced the vocab for us. Never knew words like these ever existed. #PTABannedList,” tweeted another Pakistani, SabinaR9.
Some people were just simply curious as to what some of the words meant, such as “ass puppy” and “Yellowman,” which was the last word on the list.
While many found humor in the list, others were still quite angered.
One Twitter tweeted: “#PTA has come up with #PTABannedList because lot of these government functionerios don´t want to hear truth about themselves #pakistan.”
But what many people want to know is, who actually is the creative genius behind this list of words and phrases?
The November 14 letter, apparently written by Muhammad Talib Doger, an official with the PTA, stated that mobile phone operators should begin screening the words on the list and removing them from their databases.
The move to ban obscene and explicit material from texting follows users´ complaints that they have been receiving offensive text messages on their phones, Mohammad Younis Khan, a spokesman for the PTA, told the Guardian.
The ban is “the result of numerous meetings and consultations with stakeholders” after the consumer complaints poured in. He said the list was not finished and the authority would continue to add to it. “Nobody would like this happening to their young boy or girl,” said Khan.
But the move is being derailed, at least in the short term, but mobile operators.
“Obviously there are concerns and we have some reservations,” said Omar Manzur, spokesman for Mobilink, the country's leading telecoms operator. “This regulation will be implemented only after mutual agreement between the PTA and us. We should wait until the end of this discussion,” he told AFP.
Another telecoms official told AFP that filtering the system could degrade the quality of network services and greatly inconvenience subscribers if texts are not delivered due to inappropriate words.
Sohaib Mustafa, a spokesman at Telenor told AFP he was “not in a position to say when this (ban) will be implemented.” But did say: “If this is a regulation and a law then we have to implement it but so far we are in discussions.”
The PTA said that Monday did not mark the formal deadline of the ban, as words continued to be transmitted. “There were two weekly holidays on 19 and 20 November (the Saturday-Sunday weekend) and there are still two days left to complete this seven-day period,” Younis Khan told AFP.
He acknowledged the “reservations” of telecoms companies and said the PTA was “ready to sort that out through mutual discussions.” <br.
Campaign group Bytes for All said it will challenge the order in court, saying “a new, ruthless wave of moral policing” violated rights to free speech and privacy, and made a mockery of the entire country.
Despite a ban on the texting of obscene words, Pakistanis will likely find ways to get around such a ban. Mobile operators expect the PTA to fine them for any banned words that do get through, which means they would have to cut the connection of customers who persistently try to send such messages.
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