When your viewing a website is blocked due to censorship, should your internet service provider should inform you? A 403 or 404 error code amounts to lying, argues Terance Eden. Some have suggested a new ‘451’ internet censorship signifier, inspired by Ray Bradbury:
There is no HTTP code for censorship. But perhaps there should be.
My ISP have recently been ordered to censor The Pirate Bay. I am concerned that this [sort of] censorship will become more prevalent. As network neutrality dies, we will see more sites ordered to be blocked by governments who fear what they cannot understand. However, chief among my concerns is the technical way this censorship is implemented. At the moment, my ISP serves up an HTTP 403 error.
$ wget -v thepiratebay.org
Resolving thepiratebay.org… 18.104.22.168
Connecting to thepiratebay.org|22.214.171.124|:80… connected.
HTTP request sent, awaiting response… 403 Forbidden
As far as I am concerned, this response is factually incorrect. According to the W3C Specifications:
The 4xx class of status code is intended for cases in which the client seems to have erred.
Now, I haven’t made an error when making this request.
So, what HTTP code should ISPs – or others – serve up to indicate to the user that censorship is abound?