Pakistan to censor words like "athletes foot" in text messages

By on November 22, 2011, 4:00 PM

Pakistan's communications regulator, the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority, has been exploring censorship for words deemed too inappropriate for texting. There are mixed reports about whether or not the changes have taken effect yet, but it should be any day now according to a letter sent to mobile operators from watchdog director, Muhammad Talib Doger.

The amalgamation of offensive words contains roughly 1,600 entries and is comprised of about two-thirds English words and one-third Urdu, Pakistan's national language. The document was leaked onto Google Docs, but public permission to that item has since been pulled at the time of this writing. However, a version of the list made it here (warning: explicit language) which contains all of the current English words and phrases.

A mobile operator representative told the AFP news agency:

"There are more than 1,600 words in the list including indecent language, expletives, swear words, slang etc, which have to be filtered. The filtering is not good for the system and may degrade the quality of network services—plus it would be a great inconvenience to our subscribers if their SMS was not delivered due to the wrong choice of words"

Blocked language includes the likes of "flogging the dolphin", "tongue",  "hobo", "Kumquat", "Axing the weasel", "Got Jesus", "hole" and "Satan". While many of the words and euphemisms included are unmistakable obscenities, many require a vivid imagination and some just seem non sequitur. Among the censored phrases are swaths of religious references, words used in every day speech, names of football players and other "pro-western" language. Needless to say, some Pakistanis feel their constitutional free speech rights are being violated, resulting in various open letters and lots of activity on Twitter

Mohammad Younis, a PTA spokesman claims the ban was a, "result of numerous meetings and consultations with stakeholders," and went on to point out that "nobody would like this happening to their young boy or girl." Mr. Younis also added that the list was never intended to be distributed publicly and was only intended to be used for testing purposes. According to the spokesman, a more finalized, shorter list will be released after more consultation is done.

Another PTA regulator also told mobile operators that constitutionally guaranteed free speech is "not unrestricted", as shown by precedents set in Pakistani courts. The official also pointed out that PTA has a responsibility to prevent "obnoxious communication", suggesting that PTA feels it is within its bounds.




User Comments: 48

Got something to say? Post a comment
Guest said:

If your blocking words like "Athletes foot" and "Tongue" you might as well call your self a retard and end your life so no one can see where stupidity really came from.

Guest said:

@Guest, there's no need to include words such as 'end your life' in your comment. If that's stupid I don't know what is.

treeski treeski said:

Guest said:

If your blocking words like "Athletes foot" and "Tongue" you might as well call your self a retard and end your life so no one can see where stupidity really came from.

If you block anything, you should do the above. People should have 100% freedom over what they send in their own PERSONAL text messages.

Guest said:

"@Guest, there's no need to include words such as 'end your life' in your comment. If that's stupid I don't know what is."

Its ok guest you can add that to the Block list for pakistan ;D .... apart from that why not? if the maker of that list did end his life then the world would be a much better and less stupid world as I don't want to see people's text not going through just because they texted "Our block has a black out so people coming to fix" which it is blocked in pakistan so do you really want people that block words like that to ruin others lifes? no I dont think so :D

Recycle said:

Apparently the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority knows more slang than I do!

Guest said:

So this way if a woman is "raped" or "molested" she won't be able to text it. I seem to remember something like this happening in the book 1984. that ended well

gwailo247, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

Heh, the PTA is censoring things. An example of convergent evolution.

Guest said:

Sir, is the term "behen ke laude" and "gaandu" and "land ke tope" also banned now?

Guest said:

The name "Jesus Christ" is also on that list...

fimbles fimbles said:

"Flogging the dolphin"

This i agree with, Animal cruelty should not be tolerated :P

Staff
Rick Rick, TechSpot Staff, said:

fimbles said:

"Flogging the dolphin"

This i agree with, Animal cruelty should not be tolerated :P

I totally agree. If you're going to censor stuff, there should be zero tolerance for animal cruelty. :-)

treetops treetops said:

People in Pak have cell phones?

Butch said:

fimbles said:

"Flogging the dolphin"

This i agree with, Animal cruelty should not be tolerated :P

^^ Ha! Good stuff!

spydercanopus spydercanopus said:

Censorship is not an effective method of preventing transmission of disease, such as athlete's foot. Censorship is however effective at bringing down the system in full revolt. Just according to history, that is.

Opus Opus said:

I guess PTA has become a bunch of losers, who, instead of concentrating on the improvement of cell phone services i.e. issuance of 3G, 3G+ licenses, is now more focused on banning free speech.

Opus Opus said:

words like "caress" and "fiancÚ" are banned, stupid PTA.

Guest said:

If you had more intelligence than a snail, you would have known the amount of cell phones Pakistanis have.

RH00D RH00D said:

They blocked Boobies...

red1776 red1776, Omnipotent Ruler of the Universe, said:

They blocked Boobies...

well if everyone would sit down, we could see them!

Mindwraith said:

it would be great if they could censor trolls on the internet. imagine how much nicer it would be if all insults and swearing was replaced with *******

treetops treetops said:

Guest said:

If you had more intelligence than a snail, you would have known the amount of cell phones Pakistanis have.

mm they must not have jokes in pakistan

Wendig0 Wendig0, TechSpot Paladin, said:

I needed a good laugh, that list is hilarious!

red1776 red1776, Omnipotent Ruler of the Universe, said:

mm they must not have jokes in pakistan

Guest said:

PTA has backed off from this decision.

SaadKnight said:

The problem is that jokes on Pakistani Govt. officials are cracked through SMS. So, naturally Govt. has instructed PTA to stop this.

Archean Archean, TechSpot Paladin, said:

treetops said:

People in Pak have cell phones?

If I remember correctly, they are 6th or 7th largest market, and one of the fastest growing cell phone market. Anyway, it is prime example of stupidity at its worst to 'censor' stuff. I mean if anyone want to avoid this filtering, they simply have to type 'A S S' ............ and I can understand why 'blow***' is banned, but what is wrong with words like 'Blackout, Damn, Hostage ......' etc. Hell 'Dong' is currency of Vietnam (as far as I can remember).

The problem is that jokes on Pakistani Govt. officials are cracked through SMS. So, naturally Govt. has instructed PTA to stop this.

I don't think they will be able to stop them in anyway as it is pretty easy to by pass these filters IMO.

spydercanopus spydercanopus said:

Archean said:

If I remember correctly, they are 6th or 7th largest market, and one of the fastest growing cell phone market.

If you don't count the ones used in car bombs, their ranking is much lower.

Novulux said:

Drunk, barf, K Mart, and glazed donut are banned?

hassaan said:

Bill has been deferred as it was challenged in the court. Apparently the bill was sponsored by the ruling elite as they do not share the same sense of humor the general public has.

SaadKnight said:

Archean said:

treetops said:

People in Pak have cell phones?

If I remember correctly, they are 6th or 7th largest market, and one of the fastest growing cell phone market. Anyway, it is prime example of stupidity at its worst to 'censor' stuff. I mean if anyone want to avoid this filtering, they simply have to type 'A S S' ............ and I can understand why 'blow***' is banned, but what is wrong with words like 'Blackout, Damn, Hostage ......' etc. Hell 'Dong' is currency of Vietnam (as far as I can remember).

The problem is that jokes on Pakistani Govt. officials are cracked through SMS. So, naturally Govt. has instructed PTA to stop this.

I don't think they will be able to stop them in anyway as it is pretty easy to by pass these filters IMO.

In any case it will not last long.

SaadKnight said:

spydercanopus said:

Archean said:

If I remember correctly, they are 6th or 7th largest market, and one of the fastest growing cell phone market.

If you don't count the ones used in car bombs, their ranking is much lower.

Well that's simply not true. People really have lots of phones.

Guest said:

hahahahaha... ! these words could be banned if translated properly in English

caravel said:

I'm just wondering if Techspot is based in Pakistan these days?

When words like ***** and ***** are censored there is some cause for concern...

Guest said:

While "flogging the dolphin", I ended up getting "athletes foot". To make matters worse while "Axing the weasel", I tripped over a "hobo" fell into a "hole" and bit my "tongue". I said "Satan" you no longer have me for I "Got Jesus".

I feel so much better knowing I can post all that. :)

MilwaukeeMike said:

This is why it bothers me when people in America cry oppresion when they can't pirate music.

We don't even know what oppression is.

DeliciousPie said:

milwaukeemike said:

This is why it bothers me when people in America cry oppresion when they can't pirate music.

We don't even know what oppression is.

Peaceful protesters being pepper-sprayed in the face?

People with skin tone X not being allowed into the same areas as people with skin tone Y?

Guest said:

well who are we to judge, when i watch american 'reality' tv all i hear is bleep bleep bleep.

over here in Europe at least we can hear the swearing in our own programs...

so do u really want to laugh at the pakistani?

The5Xfactor said:

Did they also censored the words "Pakistan", "USA", "Techspot"... ?

captaincranky captaincranky, TechSpot Addict, said:

If your blocking words like "Athletes foot" and "Tongue" you might as well call your self a retard and end your life so no one can see where stupidity really came from.

@Guest, there's no need to include words such as 'end your life' in your comment. If that's stupid I don't know what is.
This sort of thing always brings a tear of joy to my eye around the holidays. Mortal, but ineffective and unarmed mental combat between 2 "distinguished" guests. Guest trolling guest, and being brought together by Techspot....

I think the Pakistani government should focus on more important things such as their nuclear weapons program, or expanding the scope and quality of lodging to be used for harboring international terrorists.

I think the Pakistani people should get off the damned phone, and concentrate on breeding more Pakistanis. I'll be very disappointed in them if they can't come up with another 1/2 billion or so people they can't feed, or clothe either, in the next 20 years or so.........

I would be very aroused if you let me smell your athlete's feet, while you call me Jesus.....fap,fap, fap.........

I guess I'm not ready for prime time in Pakistan....

red1776 red1776, Omnipotent Ruler of the Universe, said:

...and 3...2...1... Rofl

...and check your mail!...preferably in a more expeditious manner than I do.

fimbles fimbles said:

As guest said above, Im sure they are a lot worse in their native tongue, and true meanings are lost in translation.

captaincranky captaincranky, TechSpot Addict, said:

As guest said above, Im sure they are a lot worse in their native tongue, and true meanings are lost in translation.
Really, how ambiguous or malevolent can the term "athlete's feet" be? Unless you insinuate the infection has spread to the IM recipient's crotch........

I hope this wave of censorship doesn't spread to India. You'll never get CS reps. Dwight or Clementine to help, you since they'd have every excuse in the world to simply hang up on you.

Something like this, "hello, this anti-fungal creme you sold me does absolutely nothing for my athlete's foot...................Buzz.......Buzz.....Buzz......buzz...
....hello,,,,,,,hello......

Archean Archean, TechSpot Paladin, said:

If you don't count the ones used in car bombs, their ranking is much lower.

There are over 100 million cell phone users in Pakistan (from what I could find on the net) so ..........

I think the Pakistani government should focus on more important things such as their nuclear weapons program, or expanding the scope and quality of lodging to be used for harboring international terrorists.

Problem is they need Americans to do this, just like Americans were always there during the 1970s-80s-90s Afghan war to fund and arm all these terrorists and terrorist groups ........... the only paradigm which has changed now is that this time around it is US which is facing 'not so honorable exit' instead of ruskies.

By the way Captain many many years ago I read an article of some swedish professor, covering different aspects of Pakistani economy, available natural and human resources, based on this I can assure you if they have 'right and honorable' people to run the show, that country can become California of Asia in 15-25 years time. But as it is, rampant corruption and incompetence rules, by the way I think many western nations too have this problem. One example of incompetence can be American Govt.'s tactic of 'printing' their out of this economic mess, instead of taking concrete steps to correct the wrongs of 1990s and first decade of 21st century. I haven't had time to dig deeper into motives of 'Occupy Wall Street' movement, but I think it could be a case where general public have started to realize how they are being robbed of means of decent living, education, health care etc. although what they can achieve only time will tell.

captaincranky captaincranky, TechSpot Addict, said:

Problem is they need Americans to do this, just like Americans were always there during the 1970s-80s-90s Afghan war to fund and arm all these terrorists and terrorist groups ........... the only paradigm which has changed now is that this time around it is US which is facing 'not so honorable exit' instead of ruskies.
Well, sometimes you get the "bear", and sometimes the "bear" gets you.

By the way Captain many many years ago I read an article of some swedish professor, covering different aspects of Pakistani economy, available natural and human resources, based on this I can assure you if they have 'right and honorable' people to run the show, that country can become California of Asia in 15-25 years time.
Well, "professors" tend to be somewhat "cloistered" and suffer a disconnect from reality because of it. Which is a civil way of saying they have their heads up their a**es, except of course, during the "tenure" of their 2 hour lunch breaks.

The simple facts are, that Pakistanis breed like lice, and if they were capable of self governance, don't you think that would have happened by now? I love how everybody points to governments as the problem. Governments are Darwinian in nature, in that the strong subjugate the weak. Good government are subtle , and they supply the governed sheep with sufficient quantities of iPhones to shut them up. Bad governments then censor the phione calls. That's pretty much the primary difference.

But as it is, rampant corruption and incompetence rules, by the way I think many western nations too have this problem.
Take the sovereign state of New Jersey for example
One example of incompetence can be American Govt.'s tactic of 'printing' their out of this economic mess, instead of taking concrete steps to correct the wrongs of 1990s and first decade of 21st century.
You're preaching to the choir.
I haven't had time to dig deeper into motives of 'Occupy Wall Street' movement, but I think it could be a case where general public have started to realize how they are being robbed of means of decent living, education, health care etc. although what they can achieve only time will tell.
The longer the "Occupy Movement" goes on, I think you'll find that more and more will be forgotten about their message, and more and more will be remembered about the tents, public nuisance, and crapping in the streets.

As David Letterman pointed out, the score is 260+ occupy protesters arrested, Wall Street Bankers, zero. In this game however, the lower score wins.

dividebyzero dividebyzero, trainee n00b, said:

Governments are Darwinian in nature

Judging how most "governments" work they are also Larmarckian in nature- the ongoing dynamic of self-preservation...unless of course you're attempting to add experience to a cracked container (G.H.Bush to G.W.Bush for example)

captaincranky captaincranky, TechSpot Addict, said:

Judging how most "governments" work they are also Larmarckian in nature- the ongoing dynamic of self-preservation...unless of course you're attempting to add experience to a cracked container (G.H.Bush to G.W.Bush for example)
Well, Lamarck was a well known crackpot, so point taken. But, self preservation is central to Darwinian philosophy as well. That said, as in the cases of the Bush dynasty, evolution occasionally gets it wrong. The best possible outcome in this example, would be to have the species die out....

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