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


  • anas saleem

    I don’t know where the author gets his information but i don’t agree that filtering sms’s is possible for the telco’s

    the filters are nothing but a failed attempt at such a massive scale….. if you are not aware then let me fill you in that the genious behind microsoft had so much spam that he had hire ppl to sort out his mail

    n yt yu claim sms’s can be filtered tht too in a country like pak whr the traffic is the highest

    • stone cold

      The info in the post is pretty much accurate. Telcos already have sms filtering capability. And it is already being used for blocking fraud balance trasfer and MNP scams etc.

  • Kashif

    Problem is censorship, not list of keywords and filtering

    • admin

      Boss, SMS filtration is already in place, as mentioned above.

      • Kashif

        it should be removed, if it’s in place. other countries are controlling spam without censoring, why can’t we?

  • a khan

    I disagree that filtering itself is not a problem. What i say to my friend is NOT open to censor by state under any law. This is ridiculous. Peer to peer communication censoring is out of domain of PTA. This level of censoring is unheard of and would definitely lead to censor of other kinds.

    Imagine what PTA would have done if they had this tool at the time of pro-lawyers anti musharaf rallies? imagine how they would have banned selective words to ensure people cant coordinate protests. We need to put a full-stop on this now.

    if some one complains of receiving malacious sms then that should be investigated and strong punishment should be given to one initiating it.

    • Kashif

      x2

    • admin

      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.

  • Kashif

    Admin is trying to force his personal agenda or opinion on other people like censoring internet, SMS. With his famous website, he should be unbiased and cover all opinions in society.

  • zain

    well filtration should be done on moral basis. immoral words should not be allowed

  • Amir Khan

    PTA should invest its energies and efforts into promoting and expanding the telecom industry for example 3G, instead of wasting its and other people’s time on useless banning of ordinary keywords.

  • anas saleem

    Kashif i guess yu dnt own a billing line or live under a rock bcuz i get spammed like craxy from balance transfr txts to viagra adds yu think m lyng jus go n check wth ny1 using an old number

  • anas saleem

    Yu seriously think filteration is possible hahahhahahahahahhha yu guys dnt have nyidea wat the process is and how hard it is

  • IWhizKID

    The problem is interuption of PTA into privacy of peoples. I’ll bycot sms services if this got implimented.

  • Imran

    When it Will Get Operating i have Tested it but its not working…
    And i think its Almost Impossible because People in Pakistan Send Mass Amount of SMS to each other this is because of The Free SMS packages.

    After PTA’s this step i think they are completely Idiots They Should Minimize the Flow of SMS by banning Such Free Sms Packages first because filtering that Mass Amount of SMS will be Definitely a challenge … What a Foolish Idea.!!!