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.