The Pakistan Telecom Authority's (PTA) possible attempt at SMS filtering for abusive contents, has had Twitter timelines flooded with reactions, mostly humorous. In a bid to enforce morality, the PTA has issued two lists containing over 1,000 ‘abusive words’ in English and 550 words in Urdu.
A scaned copy of the letter along with the lists has gone viral online and on Twitter it has generated an interesting response and attracted media attention.
The letter, dated November 14, 2011, suggests that SMS filtering should be considered under the “Protection from Spam, Unsolicited, Fraudulent and Obnoxious Communication Regulations, 2009″, it contains a reference to a meeting held on the same issue with mobile phone operators on the 18 October, in the capital, Islamabad. The letter was issued by Muhammad Talib Doger, Director General (Services) of PTA.
Interestingly, one of the first reactions to the list came from a politician, Faisal Sabzwari:
@faisalsubzwari: Whoever wants 2 enjoy, send me email id
From what at first seemed to be one of the most comprehensive compilation of cuss words the list soon became subject to curiosity and a laughing stock with addition of words like “athletes foot”, “tongue”, “mango”, “taxi” “murder”, “rape” and even “Jesus Christ”.
Here are some of the reactions from across the Twittersphere:
@Jemima_Khan: I'm going to make sure I include “monkey crotch” in every text to Pakistani friends from this day forth…
Two Twitter accounts @PTAbannedlist and @notextpaki were also set up.
There’s also been much debate about the ways in such extensive filtering could be implemented. With the PTA’s history of moral policing (an earlier crack down on porn), one can be sure that the ban will be implemented even if not in its entirety. A recent announcement confirms the same.
The PTA has now taken back its announcement on the ban, stating that it was only a ‘preliminary’ list and that they have decided to shelve it after facing strong opposition from civil society. However, as the website Outsports points out, it is interesting to note that the list was copied off a list of words that are not allowed to printed on NFL [American ‘National Football League’] jerseys. This explains the presence of words like “Jesus Christ”, “Athletes Foot” and “Neon Deon”.
So even though the PTA has decided to shelve the ban for now, there's no telling if they will come up with an edited and more relevant version of the list determined to morally police text messaging in Pakistan.