May The Dolphin Be Unflogged: Paskistani Government Censors Texting

from the ignorant-sh*t dept

The Pakistan Telecommunications Authority has taken a bold new step in the censorship arena, compiling a list of words and phrases deemed "inappropriate" for texting. This list has been forwarded to the nation's mobile operators, making a brief appearance as a publicly-available Google doc. Although the public permission has been rescinded, a version of the list appears here (very probably NSFW, especially if someone is reading over your shoulder or if you tend to read everything aloud).

According to a mobile operator representative:
"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"
To give you the gist of the forbidden texts, imagine George Carlin's "Seven Words You Can Never Say on TV," attach nearly any other imaginable word to those seven, add a couple hundred euphemisms for masturbation, some drug slang and a slew of misspellings and you'll be in the general neighborhood. It's what's lying on the outskirts of this neighborhood where things get weird.

Athletes Foot. Defecate. Deposit. (Yes, I know, but I would imagine some Pakistanis still use a banking system.) Do Me is thwarted by removing a space, leaving Pakistanis with no word for "enclosed arena." G Unit. God Damed Motha Fucka. I'm saddened to see "sexwhore" is no longer permissible, as it has become my go-to texting phrase, especially when contacting immediate family members.

Famous STD gonorrhea narrowly avoids the ban, thanks to an apparent lack of reference material ("gonorrehea"). Of course, infection tends to lead to a burning sensation that also makes the "no-go" list: "smagma."

Got Jesus. (It's cool, though. "Satan" is banned as well.) Hobo. Hoser. Idiot and "idoit." Juggalo. Kmart. Kotex. Lotion.

Inveterate masturbators will be thrilled to learn that many variations have been banned (mastabater, masterbate, mastrabator) but the original, correctly spelled version lives on. Sadly, inveterate jokesters will have to make do without their precious, um, "pun tang."

Neon Deon. Rae Carruth. (Apparently, the Pakistani government has something against flashy/homicidal football players, not to mention the defunct XFL ("he hate me/hehateme")).

"Tongue" gets twisted as well, appearing on the list as "tonge," "toung" and "tounge." #1072-1074 are apparently intentionally left blank.

All in all, a very dirty and plentiful list. One can almost imagine the censoring group giggling childishly long into the night while coming (I KNOW) up with this list.

Many Pakistanis have taken to the internet to express their displeasure with having their constitutional free speech rights violated. Of course, officials are quick to point out that this censorship is "for the children."

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."
(Oddly enough, "Wuutang Clan" is forbidden, despite the fact that they are sporting an additional "u" and are distinctly "for the children.")

The spokesman also points out that they never thought they'd get caught:
Mr. Younis also added that the list was never intended to be distributed publicly and was only intended to be used for testing purposes.
Supposedly the final version will be much shorter, leaving Pakistani texters only "partially censored" which is better than "completely censored" but still much, much worse than enjoying their right to free speech. Citing Pakistani court precedent, the Pakistani government representative helpfully pointed out that, like many "unlimited" data plans, constitutionally-protected free speech isn't "without restrictions."

All in all, this move sounds like a nanny-state circle****, presided over by officious ***hats with too much free time and way too much power.



Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    fogbugzd, Nov 30th, 2011 @ 5:38am

    I really dread seeing the comments on this post. Let the 8th grade humor begin...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
    identicon
    fb39ca4, Nov 30th, 2011 @ 6:01am

    Nothing a little letter substitution code can't solve.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
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    Richard (profile), Nov 30th, 2011 @ 6:03am

    sample Banned text

    Please don't drag Queen Elizabeth II into censorship.

     

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  4.  
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    gorehound (profile), Nov 30th, 2011 @ 6:05am

    This is what happens when you live in a backwards Nation governed by Religion and having all kinds of modern tech.
    for those good Pakis this is horrifying and I am sorry for you.

     

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  5.  
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    fogbugzd (profile), Nov 30th, 2011 @ 6:15am

    Re:

    >>This is what happens when you live in a backwards Nation governed by Religion and having all kinds of modern tech.

    When I read the first line I was expecting the following sentence to be about the USA. Unfortunately the US seems to be rapidly moving in the direction of "a backwards Nation governed by Religion."

     

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  6.  
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    The Infamous Joe (profile), Nov 30th, 2011 @ 6:16am

    I have needs.

    I want a story using all of the words on the list, using the smallest amount of total words.

    Go.

     

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  7.  
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    nasch (profile), Nov 30th, 2011 @ 6:24am

    Freedom of expression

    Here's their freedom of speech:

    "Every citizen shall have the right to freedom of speech and expression, and there shall be freedom of the press, subject to any reasonable restrictions imposed by law in the interest of the glory of Islam or the integrity, security or defence of Pakistan or any part thereof, friendly relations with foreign States, public order, decency or morality, or in relation to contempt of court,[15][commission of] or incitement to an offence."

    All the censors have to do is say it's in the interest of the glory of Islam, or the integrity of Pakistan, and they're golden. So effectively Pakistanis really don't have any guarantee of freedom of speech. IMO it would be like if the US 1st Amendment said Congress shall make no law abridging freedom of speech unless they really feel like it.

     

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  8.  
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    Hans B PUFAL (profile), Nov 30th, 2011 @ 6:27am

    Questions, questions....

    Can anyone explain why there are phrases on the list for which each individual word is also listed.

    The report also does not mention what happens when a censored word is found in a message. Is it removed, replaced, or is the messge simply not delivered (and in that case does the Telcom get to charge for it?).

    So many questions - so few answers.

     

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  9.  
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    :Lobo Santo (profile), Nov 30th, 2011 @ 6:30am

    Re: I'll start...

    No more pun tang? Oh noes!!

     

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  10.  
    identicon
    out_of_the_blue, Nov 30th, 2011 @ 6:30am

    Actually, you're in the "group giggling childishly",

    that's the whole hook of this piece.

    As empirical practice, it's rebutted entirely by that the FCC for decades (and still in broadcast) forbid those 7 words and many others, yet America survived. Nothing wrong with semi-enforcing verbage that your grandmother is comfortable with. -- If you think otherwise, then just spew it in her presence.

    2nd, if you had any grasp of how fast computers search and replace text, you'd drop it as an objection. If messages don't get passed on, that's the whole purpose.

    3rd, why did you spell out "God Damed Motha Fucka", while asterisking "circle****" and "***hats"? You thereby acknowledge that some words are objectionable for mixed audiences, even while attempting to ridicule this "censorship".

     

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  11.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 30th, 2011 @ 6:35am

    Easily Thwarted

    Aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a toatl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe.

     

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  12.  
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    The Infamous Joe (profile), Nov 30th, 2011 @ 6:41am

    Re: Actually, you're in the "group giggling childishly",

    1. Between you and me, those 7 words being banned by the FCC is not long for this world. Interesting side note: cable TV has no such restrictions, by law, but angry soccer moms make it a business decision to not use those words.

    2. In times of high volume, text messages get lost or delayed here in America, where there is no censor overhead. If you're suggesting that adding a find and reject routine to a system that already fails won't make it more prone to fail, then you're ignorant.

    3. I'm glad "woosh" isn't a banned word, or I wouldn't be able to snarkily explain that you've missed the entire point.

     

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  13.  
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    milrtime83 (profile), Nov 30th, 2011 @ 6:45am

    That list was circulated in 2005 as the list of words/phrases the NFL doesn't allow on custom jerseys. Hence "neon deon" and "he hate me" being on it.
    http://outsports.com/nfl/2005/0301nflshopnaughtywords.htm

    Or did Pakistan just copy the nfl's list as their starting point?

     

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  14.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 30th, 2011 @ 6:51am

    Re: Re:


    When I read the first line I was expecting the following sentence to be about the USA. Unfortunately the US seems to be rapidly moving in the direction
    of "a backwards Nation governed by Religion."




    Your don't know what you're talking about.
    The Establishment and Free exercise clause of the First Amendment bans theocracy, and even school sponsored prayer and creationism is impermissible in state schools.

    In Pakistan, Islam is the state religion and there is capital punishment for apostasy and blasphemy.

    Pakistan is a really evil and murderous nation. The government suppresses the Ahmadiyya heretical sect by legally enforced discrimination and active toleration of deadly violence.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
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    SUNWARD (profile), Nov 30th, 2011 @ 6:57am

    no

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 30th, 2011 @ 7:00am

    Re: Actually, you're in the "group giggling childishly",

    You are so dumb.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
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    Marcus Carab (profile), Nov 30th, 2011 @ 7:05am

    Re: Actually, you're in the "group giggling childishly",

    Wow Blue you seem like a really fun guy. Let's hang out and go to parties.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 30th, 2011 @ 7:12am

    Re:

    Total swipe!!!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 30th, 2011 @ 7:24am

    Re: Actually, you're in the "group giggling childishly",


    As empirical practice, it's rebutted entirely by that the FCC for decades (and still in broadcast) forbid those 7 words and many others, yet America survived.
    Nothing wrong with semi-enforcing verbage that your grandmother is comfortable with. -- If you think otherwise, then just spew it in her presence.




    You are talking out of your ass, and no surprise.

    The FCC policy only applies to broadcast media, and the Supreme Court has explicitly struck down attempts to censor indecent speech in telephone communication, see Sable Communications v. FCC (1989).

    In Reno v. ACLU (1997) the court held that the indency standard was unconstitutional as applied to internet communications, and in United States v. Playboy Entertainment Group (2000) the court once again further rejected the government's invitation to censor cable television.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
    identicon
    Pixelation, Nov 30th, 2011 @ 7:32am

    Re:

    "Let the 8th grade humor begin..."

    At least I will still be able to say spanking little Muhammad.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
    icon
    weneedhelp (profile), Nov 30th, 2011 @ 7:36am

    Re: Freedom of expression

    Congress shall make no law abridging freedom of speech unless they really feel like it.

    Where did you get the ICE version of the Constitution?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 30th, 2011 @ 7:39am

    Re:

    They missed a word.

    twat

     

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  23.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 30th, 2011 @ 7:39am

    The missed the obviously "various-length strings of asterisks"; this oversight will invalidate the entire effort, cause you can still talk about fl***ing the d***hin with N**n D**n.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24.  
    icon
    Capitalist Lion Tamer (profile), Nov 30th, 2011 @ 7:45am

    Re:

    That's a damn good question. If so, the NFL doesn't have the excuse of not being familiar with the language to explain all the misspellings and bizarre choices.

    Maybe the censoring body in question was given a budget and a certain length of time to come up with a list, and copy-pasted this the night before it was due.

    I'm going to check this out.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 30th, 2011 @ 7:46am

    Re:

    Also, they should ban the phrase "if you know what I mean." That one can get you in and out of a lot of tight spaces, if you know what I mean.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26.  
    icon
    weneedhelp (profile), Nov 30th, 2011 @ 7:47am

    Re: Actually, you're in the "group giggling childishly",

    "Nothing wrong with semi-enforcing verbage that your grandmother is comfortable with."
    If she was still alive, she would have had no problems telling you to go fuck yourself.
    Is that a form of "wont someone please think of the children?"

    "2nd, if you had any grasp of how fast computers search and replace text, you'd drop it as an objection. If messages don't get passed on, that's the whole purpose."
    Lets just open letters as well, and while we are at it lets just implant sensors in your head so those word dont even exist. Forget going to Kmart. (584)

    some words are objectionable for mixed audiences.
    By the time most kids are around 11 or 12, and maybe even younger, they know curse words. So once again and again and again, trying to protect them with systems wide censorship just doesnt work.

    OOTB you're such a funny little character.

     

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  27.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 30th, 2011 @ 8:01am

    A$$ KL0wNs rejoice !!

    I couldn't get through the entire list, but I have to wonder if there are no "$"s or zeroes on Pakistani phones.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28.  
    icon
    ken (profile), Nov 30th, 2011 @ 8:02am

    A study Goebbels would have been proud of. These questions are like asking people if they would support tougher penalties for Shop-Lifting then come out and say 80% support the death penalty for Shop-Lifting.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29.  
    icon
    Capitalist Lion Tamer (profile), Nov 30th, 2011 @ 8:03am

    Re:

    Can't find anywhere else that links to this. (Granted, I didn't read all 525 news articles Google spread out in front of me, but I hit the majors like the Guardian, Time, etc.)

    There's a good chance Pakistan simply copied that list and added 500+ Urdu phrases to it.

    http://www.firstpost.com/living/pak-bans-dirty-texting-just-say-no-to-monkey-crotch-133379.html

    That would explain the NFL references.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30.  
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    E. Zachary Knight (profile), Nov 30th, 2011 @ 8:04am

    Re: Re:

    That's what she said.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  31.  
    icon
    Josef Anvil (profile), Nov 30th, 2011 @ 8:05am

    WTF?

    I am really hoping that no one in the region ever gets kidnapped and has to text, "I'm being held hostage. Help me."

    Hostage is filtered? Seriously? At least WTF made it.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  32.  
    icon
    The Infamous Joe (profile), Nov 30th, 2011 @ 8:06am

    Re: Re:

    Can I vote for "omg" "lol" and "ur"?

     

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  33.  
    icon
    Trails (profile), Nov 30th, 2011 @ 8:07am

    Re: Re: I'll start...

    Not only no more pun tang, but WUUTANG (sic) is on there. Say what you want about the sexwhores, they can take the slings and arrows, but leave the Wu out of this, they're hurtin without ODB.

     

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  34.  
    icon
    Trails (profile), Nov 30th, 2011 @ 8:10am

    Re: Re:

    They also, clearly, missed several Austin Powers movies:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GiWQZhUmmRw

     

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  35.  
    identicon
    MM_Dandy, Nov 30th, 2011 @ 8:12am

    I believe that there's a modern-day fable that goes something like this:

    One day, young Jack came home from school having learned a new word: "Crap." But Jack's mom didn't like it when he said crap, and Jack got into trouble whenever he would say it. So, instead of saying "Crap," Jack started saying "Cow." Now, Jack gets into trouble whenever he says "Cow." Poor Jack; someday soon, he may not be able to say anything at all.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  36.  
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    PlagueSD (profile), Nov 30th, 2011 @ 8:13am

    I got to "idiot" and couldn't continue reading the list because I was laughing so hard...IDIOT!!! That's a bad word? Quick! I must update my filters!!!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  37.  
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    Some Other AC (profile), Nov 30th, 2011 @ 8:29am

    Re: no

    Regardless of the source, I was still able to read his post with relative ease.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  38.  
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    Gwiz (profile), Nov 30th, 2011 @ 8:33am

    Re: Re: Actually, you're in the "group giggling childishly",

    Wow Blue you seem like a really fun guy. Let's hang out and go to parties.

    Yeah, loads of fun there.

    Blue would complain that the chips are /stale/, the dip is too WARM and the /couch/ is lumpy. Then he would insult the host by complaining that the party was too /BIG/ and demand to be reimbursed for the gas to drive there because it was so /far/ AWAY.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  39.  
    identicon
    Lord Binky, Nov 30th, 2011 @ 9:04am

    It's a wireless carrier scheme

    This is just a test developed by the wireless carriers in that area. The trick is that the way to circumvent these censors is that an App will be developed to create and translate your text messages. The first app released will be created by the carriers and it will simply take the the intended message and "code it" by taking each letter of the original text and expanding that into a word. Then do the reverse when decoding the text message. The effect of this will be hugely inflated numbers of text messages being produced at which point the carrier will return to monthly text allotments instead of unlimited plans. A brilliant move to return their stolen profits.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  40.  
    identicon
    FM Hilton, Nov 30th, 2011 @ 9:15am

    There is a way around this!

    It takes some knowledge of an arcane language:
    Morse Code.
    Just use Morse Code for all of those words (assuming the recipient can read it) and you have fooled the filters!

    As for my choice of swear words:

    Holy mother of pearl
    and
    Fungu.

    Neither of them got on the list. I win!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  41.  
    icon
    nasch (profile), Nov 30th, 2011 @ 9:20am

    Re: Actually, you're in the "group giggling childishly",

    You thereby acknowledge that some words are objectionable for mixed audiences, even while attempting to ridicule this "censorship".

    Hang on now... by your quotes around the word, are you trying to sneakily suggest the idea that this isn't really censorship without just coming out and saying it? If you're willing to take a position on the issue... is this censorship, or not?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  42.  
    icon
    nasch (profile), Nov 30th, 2011 @ 9:36am

    Re: Re: Freedom of expression

    Where did you get the ICE version of the Constitution?

    Not with a FOIA request, I'll tell you that much.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  43.  
    identicon
    dviant, Nov 30th, 2011 @ 10:35am

    Re:

    It was difficult but I did manage to fap to this!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  44.  
    icon
    Trails (profile), Nov 30th, 2011 @ 12:31pm

    Re: Actually, you're in the "group giggling childishly",

    You should move to Pakistan. Please let me know when you arrive, I will send you a bullseye shirt to assist your neighbours. I hear Swat Valley is lovely this time of year.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  45.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 30th, 2011 @ 2:23pm

    partially censored

    Supposedly the final version will be much shorter, leaving Pakistani texters only "partially censored" which is better than "completely censored" but still much, much worse than enjoying their right to free speech.


    I don't think anyone can be "partially censored" anymore then one can be partially pregnant.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  46.  
    icon
    techflaws.org (profile), Nov 30th, 2011 @ 11:01pm

    Re: Actually, you're in the "group giggling childishly",

    yet America survived.

    And yet is laughed at elsewhere, everytime some bad, bad word is beeped over. So what?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  47.  
    icon
    techflaws.org (profile), Nov 30th, 2011 @ 11:08pm

    Re:

    Even worse will be some Pakistani defending this like last time here on Techdirt: "Imagine, someone said that about your mother." Totally incrompehensive of the rather obvious fact that neither I, my mom, or anyone else who knows here, gives a f*** about what anyone else might say about her.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  48.  
    icon
    brenadine (profile), Apr 2nd, 2012 @ 10:46am

    Re: Re: Re:

    "creationism is impermissible in state schools"

    and yet it still happens everyday in schools across the nation, while religious texts drive women's health issues in public debate and the public secular definition of marriage.

    So, while we're not yet Pakistan - we are far from safe from imposed religious views. Don't get me wrong, religion plays apart in people's moral and ethical compass and shouldn't be banned from public discussions - but trust me, it's begning to feel a lot like 1692 around here.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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