Pak defers `obscene` SMS messages ban deadline

Pakistani mobile phone operators deferred the plan to block nearly 1,700 offensive and obscene words from SMS messages.

Last Updated: Nov 21, 2011, 23:04 PM IST

Islamabad: Pakistani mobile phone operators
on Monday deferred the implementation of an order to block nearly
1,700 offensive and obscene words from SMS messages, saying
they were holding discussions with the telecom regulator on
the issue.

The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority recently issued
two lists of offensive English and Urdu words and terms -
containing 1,106 and 586 items respectively - that it wanted
mobile operators to block.

The move was greeted with ridicule and derision by
millions of mobile and internet users.

"We are in discussions with the regulator to evaluate
this proposal. Once we reach a mutual agreement, we will take
appropriate action," said Omar Manzur, spokesman for Mobilink,
Pakistan’s leading telecom operator.

Asked if it would be feasible to filter so many words and
phrases from the millions of text messages sent every day,
Manzur said: "That is part of the discussions. We are
reviewing if that will be technically possible."

Officials of other mobile phone firms, who did not want
to be named, said they had concerns about the PTA`s
proposal, which has been criticised by rights activists.

The officials said the measure could severely disrupt SMS
communications. Rights group Bytes for All said it would
challenge the PTA`s directive in court, describing it as a
"ruthless wave of moral policing" that violated rights to free
speech and privacy.

"We are talking to a few lawyers to take this matter to
court. We will file a petition if this directive is not
withdraw," Shahzad Ahmad, country coordinator for Bytes for
All Pakistan said.

Ahmad contended that PTA had not done any study before
issuing the directive and the measure would cripple mobile
phone networks.

PTI