Why Is There No HTTP Code For Censorship?

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… 194.71.107.50
Connecting to thepiratebay.org|194.71.107.50|: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?

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  • Brother

    As one door closes, another one opens. Pirate bay got blocked because it got too popular, but if a person really wants to download a torrent there are countless other similar sites that load even faster. Plus most pop media that the dinosaurs are trying to block can be streamed freely on youtube and other music streaming sites actually saving you hard disk space; mobile music gets hurt a bit, but the movies and documentaries that are worth watching are still available. If anything they are doing us a favor by keeping this pseudo-entertainment the major studios produce not so readily available to rot the minds of the easily influenced. I rather everything be open, but if they want to filter the garbage in their futile attempt to censor, its their loss. Because if the ISPs are not going to get paid to censor eventually gaps will be opened  by the technically savvy among us and those gaps cost money to close.

    • Thorn

      Its also a marketing scheme to draw attention to mainstream music and film. If its worth protecting, it might be worth watching or listening; which while counter intuitive to think otherwise is not true.

      • don wan

         Of course it’s true, Thorn. Nothing has value until somebody values it.

  • Alex

    If anyone reading this is dealing with web censorship of any kind, download the tor browser bundle. You  can throw it on a usb and access any page on any computer over any isp. It uses a global relay of encrypted proxies, so latency is high, but your isp can’t filter the send/receive address.

    • Server

       And if somehow you’re reading this AND in Iran, you’ll also probably need the obfsproxy software as well, which works with Tor to disguise encrypted traffic as unencrypted traffic in order to route through the deep packet inspection firewall.  Unless they’ve since pulled that back, Tor alone will not work.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/CQJ7IUON4SONFZE5EYNDVNTADM Jose

    When I clicked on the read more link to see the rest of this article, I got this error, 
    “Warning: Something’s Not Right Here!88.214.201.205 contains malware. Your computer might catch a virus if you visit this site.Google has found malicious software may be installed onto your computer if you proceed. If you’ve visited this site in the past or you trust this site, it’s possible that it has just recently been compromised by a hacker. You should not proceed, and perhaps try again tomorrow or go somewhere else.We have already notified 88.214.201.205 that we found malware on the site. For more about the problems found on 88.214.201.205, visit the Google Safe Browsing diagnostic page.”Watch out, you guys are next.

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