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Pakistan Bans Obscene Cell Texts Messages Warning Customers to Avoid Gas

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If you’re a Pakistani and involved in conversation, don’t refer to the act as “intercourse” via text message. If it involves flatulence, shorten it to “gas” if you want that text to go through because a Pakistan government agency now considers a whole slew of words as offensive or obscene. And the PTA’s opinion matters. Cell phone customers won’t have any message delivered that violates a ban of nearly 2000 barred words and phrases.
Officially it’s 1695 words now banned from Pakistani cell phone text messages, to be exact. To be less exact, no one in Pakistan’s general public – like, say, the cell phone customers who are specifically being affected -- have quite been apprised of what those banned terms and phrases include. While the country isn’t telling texting participants exactly what to avoid and which words or phrases appear on a barred list of telecommunication related to the new policy, digestive issues rank among the unacceptable.
It began November 21 and is far from over -- as service problems in attempts to institute the new policy are already wreaking telecommunication havoc. Technically the ban’s supposed to have already been implemented over one day ago, due to time differences abroad. Already it’s not working. Pakistan’s cellular customers can currently consider themselves fortunate. Those messages, which the country’s governing PTA agency now considers to be potentially offensive or “obscene,” are still being cleared for takeoff – reaching recipients. That won’t last. But, for now, service providers are having one hell of a time implementing a policy for which they had no choice in involvement. For now, Pakistani mobile customers can say “hell”. But that won’t last either.
Most Americans have sent them: Drunken, under-the-influence texting; the ‘oh, dear god, I didn’t send that’ text; and the ‘morning-after-filled-with-regret’ texts.
The telecommunications agency in Pakistan, dubbed the PTA, is working to create a true-to-life version of “Fahrenheit 451”: A new list of 1695 banned words has been issued to the country’s cellular service providers. While there’s stuff now barred that many (or most) may not consider either offensive or obscene, the country’s (apparently governing) agency does. Users of text messaging in Pakistan may as well consider the new PTA policy law—that is, if they actually want to receive messages via text. Among the multiple, major problems: That law is less than clear.
If a text includes a word or phrase on the agency’s newly-created list of the obscene or offensive, it won’t go through. Mobile service providers offering cellular service within the country have been instructed to, well, block that service if a wrong word appears. That much is clear. And, yes, it’s crazy. The fact that it’s virtually impossible for texting users to comply makes it even crazier. In a country holding roughly 170 million, communication’s about to get really tough since the population hasn’t been apprised of that which it should not (or, rather, cannot) speak.
So what is this all-powerful agency that now attempts to dictate exactly how Pakistanis communicate? Officially it’s known as the Pakistan Telecommunications Agency – or PTA, for short. For long, it’s an extremely powerful entity that controls one of the most major aspects of human life – how people communicate – with an even longer arm, and control rivaling final judgments handed down by United States courts and judges. The difference is that the United States has a court system that theoretically allows such major issues to be weighed before such a major issue affects its general population. Sometimes that order gets reversed – with citizens forced to battle their way through the court system in order to have societal “wrongs” legally corrected and rectified. But regardless of order, the United States laws and court system ensure that the most major impact to personal rights are maintained – or fought in court with allegations that those rights have not been maintained. In other words, Americans are very fortunate to be blessed with the nation’s legal system that protects both individuals and their associated freedoms. Pakistan has a different implementation in place.
The Pakistan agency’s issued specific instruction to cellular phone service providers, and that instruction is meant to be heeded: All text messages will now be screened for any possible obscenities or offensive terms. Texts that don’t meet guidelines won’t be sent or received.
It’s censorship masquerading as a helpful means to supposedly block harmful spam: The PTA claims its demand for filtered texts is simply to control spamming in the country, occurring via one of the most popular forms of communication. The agency says it’s gotten consumer complaints. While the PTA’s definition of spam includes "the transmission of harmful, fraudulent, misleading, illegal or unsolicited messages in bulk to any person without express permission of the recipient,” The agency doesn’t quite explain why texts that aren’t sent “in bulk” but rather individually are also being censored – slated to be barred from transmission.
A PTA representative claims the new policy (or law of sorts) is in response to consumer complaints. It’s a move on par with AT&T’s sorry decision to blame the company's own customers for pricing or rate increases related to plan changes – rather than admitting the company was instituting the policy solely for its own benefit. The PTA’s Mohammad Younis says customers have allegedly been receiving offensive or obscene texts and that "nobody would like this happening to their young boy or girl." It’s a strange correlation. Pakistan may have its easily identifiable differences, but young boys or girls discussing flatulence is probably not among them.
So exactly what words or phrases are now considered a violation when sent via text message in Pakistan? The fully-banned list containing English and Urdu terms hasn’t been publicized, or actually spread in any form. It’s pretty much a guessing game. Certain words are easier to guess than others. But most probably couldn’t easily come up with 1695 that easily come to mind.
That complete list of banned words, or combination thereof, is known is known in entirety to just two types of entities-- the PTA and, subsequently, the country’s cellular service providers that must comply with the demand. But for the average texting Pakistani, it may be hard to keep up with the acceptable and not-so-acceptable.
It’s not just sexual connotations that have been barred as blacklisted terms, like bloating or gas issues relating to the human body. Some banned words and phrases aren’t necessarily surprising despite not fulfilling the country’s provided reasoning for the ban – to battle unwanted spam. In what is a Muslim-focused country, religion and religious discussion are pretty much a ‘no-no’ on the list of banned items. Apparently “Jesus Christ” is responsible for a whole lot of spam, even though the savior (to some) isn't physically alive. It seems Pakistan prefers it that way – and would prefer he remain dead in spiritual form also. It is a bit hard to believe the Savior has been making his rounds “in bulk,” to fulfill the PTA’s description of banned words and phrases, but Jesus obviously falls into a category of one of those things the country does not want “happening to their young boy or girl.”
What other things might affect that text message not going through. Well, personal discussion about thoughts or feelings better not be referred to as “intercourse” – and if that conversation does involve sexual intercourse, those whom choose to text about related subjects best bypass birth control or talk related to contraceptive methods, including “condoms”. If it involves any meat or meal, skip the use of “breast” and learn to eat wings – since there’s no word on whether “thighs” could be questionable.
“Crotch” is definitely on the list of things to avoid in Pakistani communication. It’s probably better not to discuss “crotch” in any form via messaging – including descriptives that include trees or any word or phrase containing the root term. Any reference to “crotchety” old men best be skipped. Even phrases containing the term are particularly targeted: “Monkey crotch” in particular is specifically banned from all text messages. It’s not known why a monkey’s crotch is considered more vulgar by the Pakistan government. But apparently those crotches are far more offensive or obscene than even crotches of other animals or life forms – including humans. As for “penis,” well, that one’s an obvious. Pakistani men are perhaps thankful right now that ‘Dick’ or ‘Richard’ doesn’t rank among common names assigned to males of the culture.
There are also some less obvious inclusions slated for the list of banned messaging discussions. Talking about grammar may be best avoided -- particularly if that conversation includes how to properly end a sentence. Those who frequently correct grammar better learn to avoid that tendency, since reference to a “period” means texts won’t be received. And if one is skipped, it may just be safer to refer to the future possibility of being ‘with child’. For now, children aren’t banned – as long as you’re not talking about taking them as “hostage”. Apparently hostage situations must somehow served as a basis for previous spamming “in bulk” efforts. For those who thought hostage scenarios were usually kept low-key or not enticing enough to garner attention as a spammer’s headline, that doesn’t appear to be the case – at least not according to the Pakistan agency’s guidelines for banning words.
As a band, Wu-Tang and its members have never been cited or accused, more than other U.S. musicians, for being obscene. Semi-officially the American band’s name stands for ‘Witty Unpredictable Talent and Natural Game.’ Pakistan either isn’t interested in wit and talent, or doesn’t appreciate the word’s urban definition. A variation in spelling means it’s on the Pakistani blacklist: “Wuutang” is not acceptable, absolutely barred from messaging communication.
The term’s ban, and particularly its spelling, is a bit baffling – possibly relating to the urban def of “wu-tang” which references physical ingestion of a ‘roach,’ the end of a smoked joint. Perhaps Pakistan is aiming to outlaw references to marijuana, otherwise known as “pot”. In that case, if it comes down to discussions related of potted vegetation, Pakistanis who feel an urgency to discuss such matters via text best refer to those containers as “plant-holders” -- just to be on the safe side.
You can be happy and therefore “gay” – that part’s not quite clear of whether the word and its room for interpretation is blacklisted – but you’d sure better not refer to a “fairy”, whether it’s a creature living in the woods, floating around Hollywood, or meandering through Pakistan streets. If you plan to complete something fast, be “expedient” – but absolutely avoid “quick” in any form, including “quickie” or that text’s not going through. If you’ve got “athlete’s foot” it better be described as a “fungal infection” – but never extend any discussion of “infection” to pertain to any related “monkey crotch”. Now it’s easy to see how quickly this new method can get confusing.
If you don’t swear (or semi-swear) always ensure your phone’s auto-fill doesn’t accidentally substitute “damn” for that barrier to hold back water that you’re discussing. Make sure “higher in depth” replaces simpler descriptions like “deeper”. And a descriptive on par with“less soft” or an equivalent needs to replaces any word like “harder”. Logically “softer” should be ok, but that’s not for certain – and never alright if associated with “breast”, so users have to be careful.
Don’t say “go to hell” – and certainly don’t suggest the PTA should take such an action, or that text is never going through. In fact it just may ensure none of your future texts go through, or that you have a cell service provider at all after any such display of reckless behavior. And, even though it’s not on a known list of the unapproved, something says the alternative of “go f**k yourself” probably won’t be quite so well-received either.
If you’re not getting any in the bedroom, that may just be the best descriptive (less the reference to “bedroom”) for what’s occurring. It’s probably best to keep it simple about your personal lack of action. The term “abstinence” shouldn’t prove a problem – but, under no circumstance, consider texting that you’re getting “no sex” and certainly don’t refer to any “monkey crotch”. Again, these things can overlap – and mean that message will never be seen.
Remember: Time is continuous and being specific can become less relevant. If it’s 4:20, don’t put it into words. “Four twenty” will have that text banned – though there’s no assurance those numbers won’t be blocked either. It’s probably safest to bypass it as a meeting time, if you expect other people to show – including the ones who won’t get your message. Consider rounding to the half hour -- or, for those more afflicted by OCD and find it hard to shave off a full ten, simplify to four-twenty-one. But bear in mind that words in phrase might affect you, so it’s probably best to avoid any time that includes a “four” or “twenty” – just to be safe. And never, ever include “wuutang” in the same message or you’re sure to be banned.
Of all the words and phrases now banned via Pakistani messaging, there’s just one in particular that could prove fatal to telecommunications in the U.S. It’s probably not the one you think – but could prove an end to a majority of text messages received in the U.S., in a single swoop if implemented: Pakistan’s ban of the word “looser”. It’s a term that ranks among the most-frequently used in America, particularly by those of the male gender but also among those females who accompany those men in life. Whether via text, Facebook posts or status updates, or tweets on Twitter, “looser” consistently describes the person who accomplishes nothing – or the person who doesn’t want to attend a party or an event, and is a “looser” for declining that invite or choosing not to show.
Americans be thankful: Such a ban could effectively fell communication in less than one minute, should it ever be implemented on American soil. Or, wait: maybe it could open up networks as all those fools have their texts dropped after filters toss them out. It could be a plan of grand proportion.
The major cellular phone service providers for Pakistani customers – including Telenor Pakistan and Ufone – confirm receipt of the agency’s message, and those words now banned in accordance with the country’s abridged text messaging dictionary.
The message surely rings loud and clear. The assumption, of course, is that service providers will meet PTA demands and entirely comply. A company would be stupid to do otherwise. It’s a limited number of cellular service companies maintaining mobile communication services within the country. And there could be less. Or there could, swiftly, become room for change – or replacement.
The Pakistani world has been a-twitter on, of course, Twitter. And, at least right now, the social site may rank among the safest places to openly discuss the ban -- like potentially-affected words, expressions and their meanings. For the moment, digestive issues are still open for discussion there. Well, there and e-mail. Before now, some may have believed e-mail to be a thing of the past -- but Pakistan’s new texting ban on ‘obscenities’ may just provide room for a new argument: What may have been considered a more archaic form of communication, soon to be out the door, could instead be staging itself a major comeback. But not quite yet.
The PTA’s got high hopes – but the agency’s already experiencing problems. While the U.S. rolls into November 21, the time difference means the banning – and screening – of those supposedly offensive or obscene words has already been in effect abroad. And the policy isn’t going quite as planned.
Because of a list that includes over 1600 banned terms -- most of which remain unknown to not just the world but specifically the affected Pakistani population of cell phone users – the country’s cell phone service providers are scrambling, trying to fulfill the PTA’s requirements and continue to maintain service for its mobile customers. The cell companies had been provided just one week, literally 7 days, to comply with the new regulation. And it’s not going so well, for anyone.
Apparently the telecommunications industry is having a hard time keeping up with a list that includes (Pakistani-defined) indecent language, expletives, swear words, slang – but also those seemingly-normal words used in common discussion. They’re the words that wouldn’t be assumed as part of the list, yet are part of the banned anyway. So with all the text messages that go out on a daily, and all that now has to be filtered, chaos is breaking out in the world of telecommunication.
Oddly, the Pakistani telecommunications provider that spoke out regarding the problems seems to be requesting (or demanding) complete anonymity in discussing the issues brought on by the government agency and its new requirements.
Among the problems (surprise, surprise) seems to be newly-required filtering of every outgoing or incoming email. The filtering stress isn’t having a good impact on at least one mobile service provider’s system. What’s referenced is potential quality issues or degradation to the network. What does it really mean? Potential network failure – as in ‘that network’s going down’ under all the strain. The rep, who refuses to be identified, seems to believe the new screening requirements may not prove so beneficial to customers. Customers usually like to receive something consistent for their money. In this case, the rep’s fear is that communication could get accidentally booted over what’s dubbed the “wrong choice of words.” It could be the right choice of words – just not the right choice to allow that message to actually be delivered.
Of course it would be hard enough for customers to check a handbook containing 1695 banned words, and ensure those weren’t being used even accidentally. But it kind of makes it harder yet for Pakistani phone customers, since mobile phone users aren’t offered a directory of what’s banned, what is not – or in what combination. Those combinations, to create blocked messages, could become endless. Pakistanis may just be better off in creating their own, guarded, dictionary of equivalent terms that will get the message across – by literally getting the message across to the other user on the other side of transmission.
As of a day ago, anything offensive or obscene and considered in violation of the new PTA policy was officially slated to have been blocked by Pakistan’s cellular service companies. Users may send a message. Today it may be received – only because of a glitch in institution. Tomorrow it probably won’t. Twitter’s got hashtags.
Pakistani users may just devise their own form of code words or means of marking the important in a different way. Otherwise users may never know exactly which brother’s been suffering from flatulence.


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