Last week, a list of more than 1,600 words, which apparently should have never gone public, was released showing what the Pakistan Telecommunications Agency considered "obscene" and should be blocked. The word blockage would have gone into effect yesterday, but as Voice of America reports, a more refined list is being developed and cell phone companies are on standby.
So for now, words like "Jesus", "naked" and "poop" are still textable. Voice of America has more:
Pakistani officials are denying they ordered the country's mobile phone operators to block certain text messages sent by customers.
Pakistani officials are downplaying the apparent order to ban the content.
Mohammad Younis, spokesman for the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA) said via translator that the list should never have been made public, explaining it was meant to be kept between PTA and mobile phone companies as a means to find out whether it was possible to filter obscene messages. He said a final, shorter list of banned words will be released later, after consultation with phone companies.
The Associated Press reported that many terms on the list were sexually explicit terms or swear words, while others -- like headlights and tampon -- the reason for blocking them is less clear. A letter was sent to phone companies and stated that the action for blocking these words was legal under a 1996 law preventing people from sending information through the telecommunications system that is “false, fabricated, indecent or obscene” and because free speech can be restricted “in the interest of the glory of Islam.”
The Twittersphere was naturally on this from the start (see below for sample tweets) under #PTABannedList.
Even with the recent statement from the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority on the list, a free speech advocacy group -- Bytes for All -- plans to sue the government should they move forward with the list, according to Voice of America:
"It has actually embarrassed and shamed us a lot. This is outrageous," [said] Shahzad Ahmad, [the Pakistan country director of Bytes for All]. "I don't know how and why PTA had so much time [or] how much effort they have put in to compile this stupid list without realizing what kind of impact it will have on the whole communication infrastructure, which is already pretty pathetic."
NPR reports that for now the cell phone companies that received the letter are holding off on blocking words until further communication comes from PTA on the list.