Welcome to HTTP error code 451: Unavailable for legal reasons

There’s a new addition to the 400 family of error codes: give a hearty welcome to newcomer 451, the HTTP code that lets you know that you’re not seeing what you want to see because it’s been blocked for legal reasons.

Of course, it’s named after Ray Bradbury’s dystopian 1953 novel about censorship and book burning, Fahrenheit 451.

On Friday, the Internet Engineering Steering Group (IESG) approved publication of 451, the formal name for which is “An HTTP Status Code to Report Legal Obstacles“.

Tim Bray brought the draft to the HTTP Working Group a while ago, inspired in 2012 by a Slashdot thread about British ISPs returning 403 for Pirate Bay requests because of a court order.

The intent of the Error 451 message is to make it crystal clear when such a website has been legally blocked.

Mark Nottingham, chair of the IETF HTTP Working Group, writes that the draft has been in the works for a while, steadily pushed forward by those who argue that the 403 status code – which simply says “Forbidden” – doesn’t highlight online censorship.

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Browsing Privacy: (Naked Security) – Welcome to HTTP error code 451: Unavailable for legal reasons

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