Ray Bradbury Inspires New Web Error Code

The code 451 will alert Internet users to government censorship
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 22, 2015 4:50 PM CST
Ray Bradbury Inspires New Web Error Code
Ray Bradbury is the inspiration for a new Internet error code that denotes government censorship.   (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, file)

A reference to one of Ray Bradbury's most famous novels can now be used to alert Internet users when their governments are censoring information, Engadget reports. The Internet Engineering Steering Group recently approved status code 451 for use, which means web developers can start implementing it, according to the Verge. Similar to "404 Not Found" or "403 Forbidden," PC World reports 451 would pop up in a browser when a webpage is unavailable, only it would specifically denote "legal obstacles" blocking the page. The status code is a reference to Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 and was originally suggested by Google engineer Tim Bray. In addition to letting citizens know when their government is censoring information, the new code also alerts them to the fact that information is available—if they're willing to work for it, according to Engadget.

Unfortunately, governments likely to stop their citizens from viewing certain webpages are also likely to keep them from seeing the 451 error code, PC World reports. "It is imaginable that certain legal authorities may wish to avoid transparency and not only forbid access to certain resources but also disclosure that the restriction exists," Bray tells the Verge. Therefore, as Engadget puts it, 451 "may be most useful in freer nations where content bans are more likely to be the exception than the rule." For example, 451 could have been used when the UK blocked torrent site The Pirate Bay in 2012, a move that partly inspired Bray to propose the status code in the first place, PC World reports. (Here are Ray Bradbury's best predictions.)

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