Be careful what you text in Pakistan
Here in the U.S. privacy and civil rights activists are justifiably upset about the Stop Online Privacy Act (SOPA) because makes anyone using or building Internet technology responsible to varying degrees with enforcing someone else's digital property rights.
Among other things, critics charge, it will further restrict the right of Americans to post, consume or download media they want – even if they personally are not committing any crimes by using it.
Pakistan has gone one better than just declaring whole categories of content illegal.
Pakistan's Telecommunications Authority has declared 1,700 words illegal and have forbidden them from being used in text messages, email and other electronic messages.
The Authority has ordered mobile carriers to add filters by Monday that strip all the words from text messages crossing their networks.
The order comes under the PTA's right to ban "offensive and obscene" language, which it describes as "the transmission of harmful, fraudulent, misleading, illegal or unsolicited messages in bulk to any person without express permission of the recipient."
What qualifies as an offensive and obscene word in Pakistan – an anglicized modern Islamic state whose national language is Urdu but whose officials speak English to communicate across provinces that support seven major languages and hundreds of local dialects?
How about " Crotch Monkey?"
Banned terms such as "Go to hell," and "HeHateMe" may qualify as hate speech or fighting words, which are also banned on personalized license plates in most states, though they're protected elsewhere by the First Amendment.
"Jesus Christ" and "Satan" get the boot for being un-Islamic, or just religiously insensitive.
"Hostage," "Murder" and "Killer" are out for violent content.
Others obviously have secondary colloquial meanings, though "flogging the dolphin" is a new one on me.
So is "Barface." And I don't think I want to know what "Athlete's Foot means if the banned term refers to anything but an annoying fungus.
None of those would be reasons to ban a word in the U.S., though they are the kind of terms some people would try to ban if others used them, but would stand up for their own right to call someone a Crotch Monkey.
Others, unless (probably) I'm missing the off-color colloquial meaning are just odd.
- Why ban "Hobo?" or:
- White trash?
Oddest of all is Rae Carruth, the former wide receiver for the Carolina Panthers who was conficted of conspiring to murder a woman who was pregnant with his child. He's in prison, due for release in 2018.
Life is tough for ex-cons. It's probably tougher – at least in Pakistan – if your own name has been declared "offensive and obscene" and banned from all text messages.
If I were Carruth I'd leave Pakistan off the list of my future destinations.
I'd probably do the same if I were the monkey or dolphin, too.
Read more of Kevin Fogarty's CoreIT blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Kevin on Twitter at @KevinFogarty. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.