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PTA orders SMS filtration in a bid to enforce morality

22 November, 2011

KARACHI: Cellular operators are in no mood to filter subscribers` SMSes at massive scale that will lead to decline in service consumption on their networks.

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They have expressed fear that filtration of SMSes will lead to a slow down of data traffic as keywords’ list provided by the authority are words widely used in the normal communication.

All operators conveyed their message with mutual agreement to Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) on Monday that they rejected authority orders to filter words with no objectionable meanings, said executives of different cellular operators while talking to Daily Times.

The operators have consulted the issue and sent a letter to PTA mentioning their point of view in the reply of PTA order to filter SMSes content, an official said requesting anonymity.

There are lots of phrases in the 1,695 English and Urdu words’ list having no offensive and indecent meanings but subscriber use in the text message for routine communication. Some of the words are foot, taxi, idiot, killing, damn, as well as.

The list contains word “Jesus Christ” also among the list of indecent and offensive.

Pakistan is ranked as 5th highest SMS traffic country in the world. The traffic has been witnessed growing as operators continue to offer new bundle packages against reduced rates. The SMS generates 15-20 percent revenues of the cellular operators.

According to an estimate, more than 800 million SMSes are exchanged every day with an average month of traffic stood at 25 billion per month. In 2009, SMSes traffic on the network of different networks stood at 621 million per day and 18.6 billion per month, according to PTA report.

The increase in text usage on the falling tariff coupled with number of subscribers have surged the SMSes traffic in last couple of years. The SMS traffic will double in terms of volume to more than 303.277 billion per annum by 2013.

The PTA order is absolutely illogical and impractical as it is not only difficult for operators but it will create problems for users as well, another official of the cellular operator said.

“We can block and filter SMSes containing offensive terms but not all in the list prepared by PTA,” he said and added “if PTA agrees we will implement on it.”

Muhammad Younis, PTA Director Public Relations, said the authority would review phrases and terms in the list and possibly change it keeping in view its usage.

The list is not final for operators but it will keep changing through monitoring, he said while explaining the rationale of the list sent to operators.

“We have asked initially to filter words in the list as the authority wanted to establish mechanism for operator,” Younis said. The process of blocking spam and obnoxious SMSes was started in 2007 and it will continue for long period.

“We will do filtration with all operators on board to redress the growing complaints of our mobile phone customers,” he said.

A lot of people expressed their resentment over PTA’s censorship policy as they believed that their privacy in communication would be violated if cellular operators follow the directions of content filtration.

They said that common words should not be blocked on the networks that could cause difficulties for them as it will take long time to use alternative spellings for communicating message in the SMS.


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