Pakistan telecoms body delays ban on 'obscene' texts

Someone using a mobile phone The PTA list of offensive words caused confusion and amusement among many Pakistani mobile users

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The Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA) has delayed the implementation of a ban on text messages containing "obscene" words.

A PTA spokesman told the AFP news agency that it would carry out more consultations before producing a much shorter list of banned words.

The spokesman gave no time frame for when any ban may be enforced.

Last week the PTA said that a ban was needed because consumers had complained of receiving offensive text messages.

"At the moment we are not blocking or filtering any word," PTA spokesman Mohammad Younis told AFP. "No final decision has been taken in this regard."

He said that a PTA committee comprising representatives of civil society and mobile phone operators would decide on a "final list of objectionable words" numbering around "a dozen".

The current list is thought to have well over 1,000 words.

"We have no plan to block any word until and unless it is approved by that committee and it will take time to reach that decision," he said.

Last week mobile phone companies Telenor Pakistan and Ufone confirmed to the BBC that the PTA had sent them a "dictionary" of banned words and expressions.

The PTA reportedly ordered operators to begin screening text messages by 21 November, despite their protestations that it would take time to work out how to block offending words.

SOME OF THE WORDS INITIALLY DEEMED 'OFFENSIVE'

  • Athlete's foot
  • Flatulence
  • Jesus Christ
  • Monkey crotch
  • Back door
  • Bewaquf (foolish)
  • Bakwaas (nonsense)
  • Wuutang (a presumed reference to American rap group the Wu-Tang Clan)

Mr Younis told The Guardian newspaper last week that the ban was necessary to protect children and that new words would be added to the PTA list.

"Nobody would like this happening to their young boy or girl," he said.

Mr Younis added that the list was not exhaustive and the authority would continue to add words to it.

An unconfirmed version of the PTA's list was circulated online, containing hundreds of words and expressions in both English and Urdu.

According to this version, entries ranged from those too rude to repeat on the BBC News website to the downright bizarre.

Some of the choices on the list baffled Pakistani mobile phone users, many of whom took to Twitter to ridicule the move.

Pakistan has seen a big increase in mobile phone use in recent years - more than 100m Pakistanis are now estimated to be mobile phone users.

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