SMS Filtering: Problem is List of Keywords, not the Filtration Itself

I am told that high-ups at PTA are under immense pressure after the list of 1,500 keywords was leaked out to media last week, which was supposed to hit cellular companies only for filtering SMS communication.

A very tiny thing (considering this was not the first list for SMS filtration issued by PTA), it was of course done with not much home work. But the matter has now gone out of PTA’s control. The media world over has been bashing the decision and the core attention of all the negative reporting has been the list of keywords, which has common words from daily life in it.

Just to let you guys know, cellular companies are pretty cool with filtering anything, there’s no additional infrastructure or software required to filter these 1,500 keywords, or more if they come. In fact there are many filters already in place to block SPAM and fraudulent text messages, such as those keywords used for trapping cell phone users to get their mobile balance and so on.

So monetarily or technically there is no problem. But the problem, the main problem, is the list of keywords that someone (apparently single handedly) at PTA prepared without considering the impact and implication. He/she maybe downloaded a list of bad words from internet to put them into an Excel sheet to throw it to operators without consulting with anyone else.

We can confirm that the list was not consulted with cellular operators, before it was leaked out to media.

P.S. Don’t get me wrong here, I am by no means supporting SMS censorship, in fact we did this piece couple of days ago to explain that this SMS filtering thing wasn’t required at all when we have methods available to block unwanted SMS/calls. What I want to explain is that implementation of the this list of keyword doesn’t make any logic at all, just assuming that we must filter SMS. In other words, it’s technically viable for cellular companies to filter traffic, but the type of keywords that PTA has asked to blocked doesn’t make sense at all.

Operators tell me that with this list, if implemented, 15-17 percent or more of text message communication will get caught by filters and won’t be delivered to the end users, which is way higher than the rate of abuse messages that PTA actually wanted to intercept.

Operators are reportedly in talks with PTA to revise the list, however, there’s no deadline I can mention you now for the conclusive outcome.

No, the list you have seen isn’t implemented so far and no operator is likely to implement it in next few days as well.

What Next?

The magnitude of coverage the whole issue has got so far, it is predicted that PTA will go into hibernation mode for some time, maybe a month or so. Eventually authority will revise the list to issue a new list of banned keywords – wishing that new list won’t get leaked again.

I am sure mobile phone users will complain even the common used words are taken out of the list, but that’s something we can’t discuss now.

Let’s wait and watch for next move from PTA on this. We will keep you posted with any update when it happens.

Tech reporter with over 10 years of experience, founder of ProPakistani.PK