pakistan bans 1,695 words on cellphone

Words in English, Urdu, Punjabi and local languages listed

In a move that has attracted both ridicule and condemnation, the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) has asked mobile phone operators to block all text messages using certain words.

What is surprising is not the order per se, but the choice of words. In all, 1,695 words in English, Urdu, Punjabi and other local languages have been listed. While there are a lot of abusive words and those laden with sexual innuendos, the curious inclusions among the 1,109 listed English words/usages include ‘athlete’s foot,’ ‘back door,’ ‘barely legal,’ ‘damn,’ ‘deposit,’ ‘devil,’ ‘dope,’ ‘drunk,’ ‘flatulence,’ ‘headlights,’ ‘idiot,’ ‘Jesus Christ,’ ‘molest,’ and ‘murder.’

The order was issued on November 14, and the companies have been given a week to start blocking SMSs with these words. Citing various court orders favouring reasonable restrictions on the freedom of speech, the order has asked the companies to do content-filtering, which is provided under the Protection from Spam, Unsolicited, Fraudulent and Obnoxious Communications Regulations, 2009.

Protesting the move, ‘Bytes for All, Pakistan,’ a human rights organisation and network for information and communication professionals and practitioners, in a statement titled ‘Moral Policing Gets An Upgrade in Pakistan!’ said the decision was not just oppressive and hegemonic but unconstitutional too.

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