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Censorship Communications Your Rights Online

Pakistan Bans 1600 Words and Phrases For Texting 356

Posted by timothy
from the when-the-stakeholders-hold-mallets-too dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "In a move reminiscent of George Carlin's Seven Words You Can Never Say on TV, the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority has handed down a ban on about 1,600 terms and phrases it has deemed obscene and told carriers they have seven days to block the words on their networks, or face legal action. '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,' says an official at a one of the telecoms. The list includes such words and phrases as 'idiot,' 'monkey crotch,' 'athlete's foot,' 'damn,' 'deeper,' 'four twenty,' 'fornicate,' 'looser,' and 'go to hell,' among others. There are also various double entendres included in the ban such as 'beat your meat' or 'flogging the dolphin.' Mohammad Younis, a spokesman for the PTA, says the ban is 'the result of numerous meetings and consultations with stakeholders' after consumers complained of receiving offensive text messages. 'Nobody would like this happening to their young boy or girl.'"
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Pakistan Bans 1600 Words and Phrases For Texting

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  • Looser? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 20, 2011 @03:11PM (#38118390)

    That's going to make giving instructions difficult. I hope no-one's working with an IPL over IM over there.

    • Re:Looser? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by cgenman (325138) on Sunday November 20, 2011 @05:58PM (#38119582) Homepage

      Animal lovers will appreciate the banning of the words "Cockfight," and "Pussy Cat." Rich people will get behind "Deposit," "Penthouse," and "Showtime." Reporters will love "Hostage," "Kill," "Murder," "Suicide," "Sniper," and presumably "Stupid." Construction workers seem to get the best with the banning of "Deeper," "Back Door," "Laid," "Banging," "Dome," "Harder," "Hole," "Joint," "Period," "Slant," "Screw," and "Budweiser." Everyone else will get behind the banning of such horrible words as "Creamy," "Jugs," and "K Mart." And pretty much all feminine hygiene is, by definition, unhygienic.

      Strangely, they banned both root words and modifiers of root words... like calling out ass AND ass clown, ass banger, etc. It's like they don't know how filtering, or words, work. Also, they banned the phrases "XXX" which is, itself, a censor word to represent something else.

      • Re:Looser? (Score:5, Funny)

        by grcumb (781340) on Monday November 21, 2011 @01:03AM (#38121490) Homepage Journal

        Strangely, they banned both root words and modifiers of root words... like calling out ass AND ass clown, ass banger, etc. It's like they don't know how filtering, or words, work.

        Kind of a shame they didn't use regex-based word subsbreastutions, though perhaps they didn't feel enbreastled to make any bumumptions.

      • Re:Looser? (Score:5, Informative)

        by milkywayer (1729406) on Monday November 21, 2011 @01:18AM (#38121556)
        Being a Pakistan who knows all the BS the current government has been doing (or not doing) for the past 4 years. This is insane. They failed at everything else, there's daily power loadshedding/blackouts, 2,3 days a week CNG (gas) blackouts, loads of corruption. And then they come out with strange moves like this out of no where to divert people's attention. This was really uncalled for. The only thing that every teenager and college student texts almost once a day is prank/hate messages about the current corrupt president Zardari, I wouldn't be surprised if there was 'Zardari' listed somewhere in those words.
  • well, all I can say to that is:

    newsletter. immediately.

    (wonders what I have been missing all these years)

  • by Opportunist (166417) on Sunday November 20, 2011 @03:16PM (#38118440)

    After all we know how ppl using txt spel pfectly an don abbrev any wrds.

    • by mysidia (191772) *

      After all we know how ppl using txt spel pfectly an don abbrev any wrds.

      I'm sure they anticipated that... that's why the 1600 word/phase list is probably 1600 variants of the phrase "F**** the PTA" or "The Pakistan Telecom authority sucks"

      • by Opportunist (166417) on Sunday November 20, 2011 @04:00PM (#38118884)

        And as we all know from the early attempts of the MAFIAA to curtail the sharing of music by disallowing the names of certain songs to be part of a file being shared, people will invent creative ways around it. 1600 or 16000 variants, people will find some that will slip through and the info will get shared quickly.

        Censorship doesn't work. People route around it.

    • I was going to put every word on the list in a poem, but words #1072 to 1074 are impossible to rhyme.

    • by ryzvonusef (1151717) on Monday November 21, 2011 @02:40AM (#38121802) Journal

      The weird thing is, we don't text in English! We "txt" a bizarre 1337 Roman Urdu, with lavish sprinkling of punjabi curse words.

      Awesome language, that Punjabi, it has both, some of the very best poetry *and* curses.

      So yeah, our dear president, we will still continue to crude messages about you, good luck stopping us. (I could swear one in ten messages is something disparaging about the president, given my inbox)

      This is, of course, if the list *is* real. First of all, it's unlikely PTA would have revealed it, and secondly, I don't think they would dare censor something like Jesus Christ. All the churches would be in uproar, and the Supreme court would rip them a new one.

      (*BTW*, just to give an idea, Pakistan has one the highest rates for text messaging in the world. We have six companies offering extremely competitive sms packages, and we don't have incoming charges bullshit that you have there, so good luck filtering those tens of millions of messages sent every day.)

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 20, 2011 @03:17PM (#38118448)

    Pakistani users will have 1600 new euphemisms by the end of the week.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/River_crab_(Internet_slang) [wikipedia.org]

  • by wjcofkc (964165) on Sunday November 20, 2011 @03:17PM (#38118450)
    After all: It's for the children! Right?
    • by wjcofkc (964165) on Sunday November 20, 2011 @03:26PM (#38118546)
      In my original attempt to post I wrote "It's for the children!." in all caps in order to communicate the absurdity to those on Slashdot who don't always think things through and might actually take me seriously. I received the following error: Filter error: Don't use so many caps. It's like YELLING.

      Come on Slashdot, isn't that what we have moderation for?
    • They are thinking of the Taliban. Mentally the same thing.
    • by Ethanol-fueled (1125189) on Sunday November 20, 2011 @03:36PM (#38118664) Homepage Journal

      It's for the children! Right?

      Not in a country where it's legal for a 60 year-old man to marry a 4 year-old girl, mate with her, then throw acid in her face and stone her to death for not wearing a burqa.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 20, 2011 @07:27PM (#38120010)

        All of those things happen in Pakistan, but each one is illegal except for one*.

        - Age of consent for marriage is 18 for males & 16 for females under Muslim Family Laws Ordinance 1961. Underage marriages are illegal.
        - Throwing acid in a person's face was explicitly criminalized in May of this year and can get you life in prison. Under older Muslim law, the victim had the right to return the favor and have acid dribbled in the eyes of her attacker.
        - Burqa wearing is optional and largely AFAIK common mostly in areas that border Afghanistan. Stoning a woman to death for not wearing a burqa is murder.

        * The one legal bit you implied was forcing your wife to have sex. Pakistani law requires that the victim not be legally married to the perpetrator in its definition of rape, just like in many US states up until North Carolina was the last to close the loophole in 1993. Many states still don't protect a woman if she's incapacitated and unable to refuse her husband.

        • by Mashiki (184564) <mashiki@NOspAM.gmail.com> on Sunday November 20, 2011 @07:54PM (#38120140) Homepage

          That's nice. But the AOC isn't enforced outside of major cities. Pakistan is quickly sliding into a imperialist islamist shithole. Meaning that sharia is the law of the day, and a wife or women who isn't subservient is disrespectful of their man, and in turn god. And where the whole sharia law thing has kicked into full gear, there's no such thing as rape. Unless you can find 8 male witnesses. And of course you can't rape your wife, she has to submit.

          The Burqa is also becoming a 'norm' throughout the country as the government tries to appease the hardliners. Keep up with the times AC.

    • After all, don't people realize the horrible things that can happen when someone gets offended?

      I found this documentary [youtube.com] about the terrible consequences of being offended. It recounts the gruesome details of people who have been offended, went to sleep, and woke up the next morning with leprosy.

      It's good that Pakistan is stopping these atrocities before they get out of hand.

  • by presidenteloco (659168) on Sunday November 20, 2011 @03:18PM (#38118460)

    to Pakistan government on this one is

    g o t o h e l l a n d f o r n i c a t e you l o o s e r i d i o t s

  • Darn (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 20, 2011 @03:18PM (#38118464)

    But what do they really think this is going to accomplish, other than invention of a new vocabulary?

    • It's actually a plot to boost telcom profits by selling more voice and data services. The new and increasingly creative(and disturbing) euphemisms will proliferate at such speed that it will soon be impossible to have even the remotest confidence that any given SMS message (even if checked for lewdness before sending) will not end up being blacklisted and dropped before delivery...
  • by Hentes (2461350) on Sunday November 20, 2011 @03:19PM (#38118486)

    "Don't you see that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought?"

  • OK wow (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Baloroth (2370816) on Sunday November 20, 2011 @03:23PM (#38118520)

    On the list: "harder". I can understand a**f****r, but "harder"? WTF? (also, they have IDIOT and ID1OT and IDOIT... but not 1D10T. Noobs.)

    Also on the list: lotion and period. Scientists with dry hands are gonna have some difficulties.

  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Sunday November 20, 2011 @03:24PM (#38118530) Journal
    Has something that wasn't a terrible plan ever been implemented by people who use the phrase "consultations with stakeholders" with a straight face?
  • by oakgrove (845019) on Sunday November 20, 2011 @03:24PM (#38118532)
    This is fucking stupid for one simple reason.

    Kids and adults alike will just find new ways to say "beat your meat" "go to hell" or whatever in 3..2..1

    The censors cannot possibly hope to keep up.

  • Banned: Juggalo (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 20, 2011 @03:25PM (#38118542)

    Some of the banned words are amusing for various reasons. Some have fairly obvious explicit meanings, others do not. Some examples of messages that will be banned after this goes into effect:

    "I am putting a new roof on my house and the stringer length is 18 feet."
    "Did you see the new wuutang clan movie on netflix?"
    "When using distance measuring equipment in aircraft, it measures the slant length between the VOR and the aircraft."
    "When approaching to land, you should retard the throttle abeam the intended landing point."
    "I want to go land at Bremerton Airport, IACO identifier PWT."
    "When running long distances, you should be careful of joint pain in your knees."
    "Calculus is often considered to be a harder class than algebra."
    "Juggalo fatso got jesus" * (All words in this one are banned)

    Wow. This is good stuff. I often wonder what is going on in these people's heads when they come up with lists like this. They are not sane as we know it.

  • by syousef (465911) on Sunday November 20, 2011 @03:27PM (#38118572) Journal

    Just last month I sent a text to my boss that read...

    "Hey, monkey crotch! How's your atheletes foot? Any looser? Damn! Quit beating your meat and call idiot!"

    And to my wife...

    "Tired of flogging the dolphin? Let's fornicate!"

    And she replied

    "Go to hell!"

  • by B1 (86803) on Sunday November 20, 2011 @03:30PM (#38118600)

    I was thinking about this the other day as a technical challenge.

    Assuming their SMS system handles tens of thousands of texts per second, each of which needs to be tested against this user-definable dictionary of 1600 words, is it even possible for the platform to keep up? Are there sophisticated search / pattern matching algorithms for testing a message against 1600 substrings? I can think of a very naive way to do this, but I'm sure it would not scale.

    How would one implement this kind of high-speed pattern matching??

    • who are there because they tweeted some small phrase or something.

    • by Mr Z (6791) on Sunday November 20, 2011 @04:04PM (#38118914) Homepage Journal

      What, you think they're going to do this on a Commodore 64?

      I looked it up, and folks in the US send 80 billion SMSes per month. That works out to about 30k SMSes/sec on average across the entire United States. Now, I realize that certain times of day are more likely to have SMSes than others, so let's say, to a first order, the peak rate of SMSes is 100k/sec. Now divide that among all the cell towers, understanding that some will be busier than others.

      Let's say a given cell tower has to process 100 SMSes a second, each at the full 160 character limit. That's 16kB/s. Let's say each word take 1000 cycles to test for, which should be on the high side since it assumes you can't use, say, a trie to take advantage of common word roots, or use pattern matching accelerators (which are quite common in this space [google.com]). 16kB/s * 1000 * 1600 = 25.6Gcyc/sec. That sounds like a lot, but it isn't.

      A single board in one of these cellular base stations has literally dozens of processor chips, most with multiple cores, running in the GHz range. And that's just one board. My employer sells a chip in this space which crunches away 10Gcyc/sec across all of its 8 processors, and our customers put dozens of these on each board.

      On GSM networks, SMSes are control channel messages. They go via a low bandwidth side channel that is nowhere near as compute-intensive as the main voice channel. If you're provisioned to handle a certain number of phone calls, you're more than adequately provisioned to handle SMSes and the corresponding filtering, as long as you do the filtering at the base station.

      • by Mr Z (6791)
        BTW, I realize this is Pakistan that we're talking about, not the US. I just used the US numbers to get an initial order of magnitude to get in the ball park for the number of SMSes/sec a given cell tower might see, on the presumption that a cell tower in the US has a similar amount of work to do per subscriber as a cell tower in Pakistan.
    • by Alef (605149)
      It would be trivially solvable using a trie [wikipedia.org]. 10000 messages is only 1,6 million characters even if every message has the maximum length. Even your typical smart phone processor could probably manage that throughput.
    • by mdmkolbe (944892) on Sunday November 20, 2011 @05:14PM (#38119348)

      With a maximum character length of 140 characters, 1600 strings to match, and assuming 8 character long strings, it would take 140*8*1600=1,792,000 character matches per message if you do it naively. That is only a millisecond on modern GHz processors, but when processing large numbers of messages using embedded processors, that is probably a few more cycles than you want to spend on each message. You can do better by using Knuth-Morris-Pratt or Boyer-Moore. Since we can pre-process the strings to be matched, this means it takes only 140*1600*k=224,000*k (for some k determined by the algorithm). This is better, but not by much.

      Notice that the dominant factor is the 1600 strings to be matched. If you really care about performance, then you want to get rid of that factor. Simplest way is to build a finite-state automaton. If it is encoded as an NFA, the performance won't be much better than before, but if you encode it as a DFA, then each message can be processed in only 140 table lookups. The downside of this is the size of the lookup tables. In the worse case, expect them to take terabytes of space depending on the particular 1600 strings being matched.

      There are algorithms like Rabin-Karp and Aho-Corasick that might take less space while still taking only ~140 character operations. The practical answer, is to try DFA, RK, and AC to see which, if any, don't require too much preprocessing space, and then use one of those. The space requirements will depend on the particular text involved, but there are good odds that the tables for DFA will be small, and even better odds that the tables for RK and AC will be small.

      Searching and sorting are two of the most well studied algorithmic problems in computer science. If you ever find yourself wondering how to do them efficiently, there is a good chance that very smart people have already figured out how to do it.

    • by TheGratefulNet (143330) on Sunday November 20, 2011 @05:26PM (#38119406)

      hardware accel.

      its how routers do DPI these days.

      any real firewall worth anything has hardware support for string finding, substrings, etc.

      since routing is now 'boring' and its all worked out; the new hotness is to have 'apps' run on high speed router platforms and 'do things' at realtime speeds with your data.

      now, aren't you sorry you asked?

  • by I'm Not There (1956) (1823304) on Sunday November 20, 2011 @03:32PM (#38118608)
    Here in Iran messages are censored but nobody knows for which words. It's not even consistent: when there's going to be a protest event or news the filtering increases. Normally it filters less words. People guess these words. The worst happens for advertisers and advertising companies that send bulk SMS and later find out that nothing has delivered!
    • by BluBrick (1924)

      ...The worst happens for advertisers and advertising companies that send bulk SMS and later find out that nothing has delivered!

      If that really is the worst that happens, I applaud the Iranian government for their discovery of successful anti-spam measures. (However, I suspect that their censorship policy has worse effects than blocking advertising campaigns)

    • The worst happens for advertisers and advertising companies that send bulk SMS and later find out that nothing has delivered!

      Thanks a lot, bastard, now I have to reconsider my opposition to setting up a totalitarian theocratic regime and pervasive censorship apparatus!

  • by decora (1710862) on Sunday November 20, 2011 @03:32PM (#38118610) Journal

    is a bunch of middle aged bureaucratic dudes sitting around a table saying "What do you think about "Monkey dick".. should we ban that?"

  • I learned a few new swear words today. On a side note, why are 1072, 1073, and 1074 redacted? Are they too obscene?
  • More list forensics (Score:5, Informative)

    by Samantha Wright (1324923) on Sunday November 20, 2011 @03:33PM (#38118620) Homepage Journal
    - "Beastiality" is banned, but not "bestiality". Coitus with animals is acceptable as long as you can spell it properly.

    - A lot of superstrings seem to be banned; I guess they expect the operators to censor the longest possible match.

    - I guess no one's allowed to do research on HSV in Pakistan, since "herpes" is banned.

    - How long before someone turns the blocking of "lesbian" and "gay" into a human rights issue? Especially "gay pride"?

    - Some of these bans are actually dangerous to public safety: "sniper", "hostage", and "stroke" are all being banned.
  • by cheekyjohnson (1873388) on Sunday November 20, 2011 @03:36PM (#38118660)

    Bad words are bad because I said so. I don't like them, and so they should be banned.

    Think of all the children that are being saved!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 20, 2011 @03:37PM (#38118680)

    The US needs to get a set of BALLS and Liberate Pakistan.

    This has gone to far, we need to bring freedom back to the world. Only way to do this is for the US to get a set of BALLS and Liberate countries like Pakistan and Canada.

  • A very entertaining and instructive list, I didn't realise my English vocabulary had so many holes :)

    Weird that Jesus Christ is on the list, after Mohammed he is Islam's second most important prophet.
    Difficult when you are a plumber and need to order 1/2" NPT nipples...
    A Pakistani Big Bitch must be huge, she's 2x on the list :)

    Now Pakistan is a country of many languages so I wonder if there are, besides this English one, comparable lists for the others?

    • by BluBrick (1924)
      I thought that about Jesus, but then I remembered being taught that Christ is a title, not a name. Jesus is permitted in the Islamic context, but not in the Christian. So, is it weird that Jesus Christ is on the list? Meh, not really. Oppressive? Fuck, yeah!
  • Umm i suppose that means something different over there than it does in the states?

    Or are they really that idiotic? ( oh wait, i guess this post will be banned too... )

  • I applaud Pakistan (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Jeremi (14640) on Sunday November 20, 2011 @03:58PM (#38118860) Homepage

    ... for doing everything they can to ensure that the range of Pakistani euphemisms and double-entendres expands to ever newer and more creative territory. Let a thousand flowers bloom!

  • by banda (206438) on Sunday November 20, 2011 @04:11PM (#38118958)

    I too would like to pretend that the XFL never existed, but ban people from texting "HEHATEME"? Is Rod Smart THAT controversial in Pakistan?

  • Language evolution (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Roogna (9643) on Sunday November 20, 2011 @04:24PM (#38119036)

    Of course the most pointless thing with language bans and censorship of this kind is that it's exactly why we -have- so many double entendres and such. Every time a culture, religion, politician, parent, teacher, whomever, tells someone that saying something is offensive, the best they usually manage is the creation of some other way of stating the same thing. Even if that involves making up new words. Beyond that, the very children who everyone is usually trying to protect with language bans like this, are the absolute masters at creating new words to circumvent such things.

  • Only in English ? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 20, 2011 @04:28PM (#38119066)

    I wonder if they only will ban this list and words in English, how about the same words (meanings I mean) in their language ? are they banned too ?

  • by meta-monkey (321000) on Sunday November 20, 2011 @05:48PM (#38119526) Journal
    After reading the list, there are some good and bad parts:

    Good: #575 - Juggalo. ICP fans should be banned, everywhere.

    Bad: #657 - Master Blaster. Now how will Pakistanis know who rules Bartertown?
  • Grimly Amusing (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Hasai (131313) on Sunday November 20, 2011 @06:24PM (#38119692)
    Seems no matter where you go and no matter how ludicrous the subject, "IT'S FOR THE CHIIIILLLLDREN!" always wins. :\

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