Error Code 451: The Internet is Being Censored
Most people don’t realize that there are “administrative bodies” that oversee the internet (and more specifically, the World Wide Web…they are two different things). While the internet was more directly overseen by the U.S. government in its early years, since 1992 a lot of the leg work for administrative matters over the internet has been done by the Internet Society, which became the controlling body over the previously government-run Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF). The IETF is more of a standards body than anything, and really, the internet doesn’t need any of this as pretty much every company that operates on the World Wide Web already intentionally works and takes on standards once they are made aware of them.
But one such standard that the IETF has put into place that I would be interested in seeing getting used has to do with the fact that courts around the world are asking ISP’s to block various websites (often they are torrent websites, or something else that affects whatever nonsense law). And this standard is simply an error code page that comes up for a website when it is one that has been blocked via government mandate.
You’ve seen this sort of thing before. Does “Error Code 404” ring a bell? This usually pops up when a website is unavailable for whatever reason, be it a server being down, or this would also include when a site was ordered blocked by a government.
Now, however, the specific action of a site being blocked by a government (I’d say “tyrannical government”, but they’re all tyrannical in nature) has been given its own specific error code by the IETF: “Error Code 451”.
There’s an obvious irony here in the name that I’m amazed government bodies haven’t complained about yet. Didn’t catch it? Think Ray Bradbury. Still not catching it? Okay, think Fahrenheit 451. This classic science fiction novel that is all about the danger of censorship and its affect on the future (though Bradbury would later say it’s about other things) is obviously in play here with naming of Error Code 451, and it’s doubly fitting since the number code fits in nicely next to the ol’ Error Code 404.
Certainly, I wish that such an error code wasn’t necessary because internet censorship wouldn’t be desired or perhaps wouldn’t even be possible, but that’s not the world we live in (at the moment). And until we are in that world where censorship is seen for the evil that it is, I would prefer it if ISP’s and others that have control over this sort of thing would use 451 to let people know that the reason they can’t access the website is due to a government, and that they are experiencing censorship of information straight up.
Impressively–and I’m not sure how long this will last–the IETF is making instructions available for how to get around a Code 451 (using a VPN, etc.) as part of the standard. I’m not sure which companies (if any) exactly for those services that they are recommending you use, but at least informing people that you can get around said censorship is a good thing for what this all is.
Readers of the Dark Android Blog don’t need me to get into some screed about the problem of censorship–internet-based or otherwise–as the danger of hindering the free-flow of information for any reason is self-evident, in my opinion. But again, as much as I wish this new error code wasn’t needed, I do support its use today. Keep a look out for it. It’s a quick an easy way to let you know when a government is being an ass (but then…when aren’t they?).