Error 451 is the new Ray Bradbury-inspired HTTP code for online censorship

23 Dec 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Error 451 is the new Ray Bradbury-inspired HTTP code for online censorship.

Users will see the status code if they attempt to access a page that is blocked by a legal demand. Now the Internet Engineering Steering Group is adding one more error code for your browser—but this time it will make it all too clear why you can’t see something. The frequency of server shutdowns in increasing, according to ISPreview, with such sites as The Pirate Bay coming under legal fire for copyright violations.

The IESG recently approved status code 451 that tells visitors they can’t see the requested content due to “legal obstacles,” which usually means government censorship. As explained by Mark Nottingham, chair of the IETF working group that first looked at the idea, having a specific status code for censorship could prove useful in a number of ways.

It’s a standardized, machine-readable way of saying that a page has been taken down as a result of censorship, which means that it will be easier to determine how many blog posts or videos or tweets get taken offline for non-technical reasons. A government body may decide to block more torrent or streaming sites, or perhaps the “right to be forgotten” in Europe will be expanded to affect specific webpages.

Whatever the reason, in any country where there’s at least some freedom its citizens must know when their governments have restricted their ability to access information.

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