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The Web Finally Has An Error Code To Indicate Internet Censorship : “Error 451”

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The web is just becoming more meaningful, and personally, more open today. The Internet Engineering Steering Group (IESF) is now on the verge of issuing a new error code, to indicate internet censorship. And yup, that means a lot of 451s in China.

It has become important to understand whether the restricted or unavailable content, which we often incur while browsing, is a gift from server side or government censorship.

Until now, the unavailable content, be it because of server or government restrictions, fell under error code “404”. This code simply states that the content or page has not been found, irrespective of the factor instigating the change.

To add a bit of transparency to this, a new error code ” 451″ has been conceived to indicate users that the unavailable content they just incurred is due to censorship coming from government’s end. And also to say, there’s nothing that server can do in this regard.

The Internet Engineering Steering Group (IESG) has already approved the initial suggestion for the new error code, allowing developers to start implementing it over their sites.

IETF chair Mark Nottingham writes –

As censorship became more visible and prevalent on the Web, we started to hear from sites that they’d like to be able to make this distinction. More importantly, we started to hear from members of the community that they wanted to be able to discover instances of censorship in an automated fashion.

Notably, this proposal was filed by Tim Bray, a co-author of the XML specification, in 2013 and was initially resisted by IETF. However, a surge in internet censorship and demand for a new error code has led IETF to accept the error code “451”, but it’s still optional for webmasters to implement the change to their platforms.

Senior Writer

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