Pakistan’s telecommunications regulator has ordered cellphone companies to monitor text messages and block any that contain anything on a list of more than 1,100 words and phrases that could be considered swear words, references to sex acts or terms of abuse.
Texts containing ‘obnoxious’ words such as fart, homosexual, lesbian, gay and some of them are not in and of themselves obscene, including pimp, stroke, stupid and flatulence are to be banned under new regulations by the Pakistan telecommunications authority (PTA). The prohibited phrases and words include more than 50 using “the f-word,” and 17 that contain “butt.”
According to a letter leaked online, 586 Urdu words and 1,109 English words are on a ‘banned list’ issued to mobile phone operators by the PTA. Monkey-crotch, flatulence, excrement and period are on the banned list as well as everyday words like athletes’ foot, finger food, deeper and hole.
Telecommunications companies will be obligated to comply with the list under the “Protection from Spam, Unsolicited, Fraudulent and Obnoxious Communication Regulations, 2009” within seven days, with fines for offenders. mobile phone operators will be responsible to submit a monthly report to PTA detailing the number of blocked text messages.
While admitting that Pakistan’s constitution guaranteed free speech, the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority told mobile phone companies that such freedom was “not unrestricted” under court rulings and they had obligations under their licences to prevent “obnoxious communication.”
Text message spam is a big problem in Pakistan. Around 100m people are estimated to own mobile phones in the country.