The Pakistan Telecommunications Authority told mobile carriers to begin blocking text messages Nov. 21 containing words from a list of more than 1,600 “obscene” terms.
Though companies were instructed to start enforcing the ban, Newsweek Pakistan reported Monday that mobile carriers had deferred it as they seek additional clarification from the government.
A Nov. 14 letter outlining the new policies and listing the forbidden words was leaked to the Pakistani media last week. The new policy is in response to consumer complaints of receiving graphic text messages, a PTA spokesman told The Guardian.
The list met widespread Internet criticism, in part for including believed benign words such as “Jesus Christ,” “athlete’s foot,” “poop,” “fairy” and “harder.” An unconfirmed version of the list has been circulating online. Some 1,100 of the words are in English, while less than 600 are in Urdu, Pakistan’s national language.
Many are discussing the ban on Twitter using the hashtag #PTABannedList. Some have suggested replacing banned words with their numbers on the circulating list.
The ban may introduce some technical difficulties, a mobile carrier exec anonymously told the AFP.
“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,” the rep said.
Pakistan is no stranger to digital bans from the government. In May 2010, the country blocked Facebook for two weeks after a competition to draw the Prophet Mohammed sparked controversy. YouTube was blocked temporarily in 2008 following news that images from a competition to draw the Prophet Mohammed had leaked onto the site.