Pakistan telecommunication authority is asking all telecom providers to ban a list of words from text messages that it considers inappropriate. The deadline to institute this ban is Monday, November 21, 2011.
The list includes harmless words such as ‘Jesus Christ’ besides the words generally considered inappropriate by the society. Imagine if ‘Muhammad’ was to be included in the list of banned words by a western country?
Telecom providers are carriers of information or bits, similar to a postal carrier. When one sends a letter using a postal carrier such as Pakistan Post, one is free to choose any words to express. Pakistan Post does not place any restriction on the contents of the letter.
There are legitimate concerns of spam text messages and sending inappropriate text messages to children. However, the former problem can potentially be solved using a ‘Do not receive message from a number not in contact’ mechanism. The later problem can be addressed by limiting the use of text messages for under age children when purchasing the phone plan.
The most worrisome aspect of this ban a small number of people at PTA determine the list of inappropriate words and can arbitrary expand this list.
PTAs concerns about the use of inappropriate words are understandable. However, it is worth considering whether these concerns should be addressed via top down ban of words in SMS, or by educating and raising awareness among youth through educational campaigns in partnership with schools, colleges, and universities.
We invite our readers to discuss whether such a ban should be instituted by PTA.