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Proposal For A New Error Code

From CNN Money: Error 451: A proposed Internet status code for censorship

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — If a website you’re trying to reach is blocked for legal reasons, do you have a right to know about it?

Developer advocate Tim Bray thinks so, and he’s got a perfect error code for it: 451, a tribute to the late Ray Bradbury’s landmark novel about censorship, Fahrenheit 451.

Bray, a self-described “general-purpose Web geek” who helped develop several key Internet standards, wrote a formal specification for his proposal and submitted it to the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), the body that develops and promotes Internet standards. The group is slated to take up Bray’s proposal at next week’s annual meeting, which begins Sunday in Vancouver, Canada.

In addition to Bradbury, Bray’s sample text includes a Monty Python reference which should endear him to the IETF.

In general you will see a 403 – Access Forbidden page or a DNS fail message when you attempt to reach a banned site. I have a feeling that this will annoy the media moguls and governments, so it has a good chance of passing.


1 jamsodonnell { 07.26.12 at 6:55 am }

Now that is a good error code. I like it!

2 Steve Bates { 07.26.12 at 9:09 am }

Count me as in favor. Couple the code with legislation requiring its use when material is censored. I have confidence many ISPs would be glad to cooperate; Web geeks I have talked to are generally fairly libertarian (not to say Libertarian) in their outlook.

Considering how quickly controversial material spreads virally on the Web, I can’t imagine how the censors think they are accomplishing anything anyway.

3 Bryan { 07.26.12 at 2:08 pm }

It would be nice to know who initiated the pull down, but just knowing there was a pull down and not just a technical problem would be a help.

Given the different rules in different countries censorship is a fairly absurd concept on the ‘Net. If you can’t say something because of British law, Jams, you know that it will still ‘appear’ elsewhere, on a site that isn’t subject to those laws. Wiki-Leaks makes that point rather bluntly.

If countries want to play Whac-a-Mole trying to shutdown sites that offend them, let them prove their skill. It is the sort of thing that stirs up the dust in the darkest depths of the ‘Net and brings out the creative energies of a lot of IT people.