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Censorship The Internet Your Rights Online

An HTTP Status Code For Censorship? 369

Posted by Soulskill
from the you-can't-get-there-from-here dept.
New submitter Tryfen writes "UK ISPs are being forced to block The Pirate Bay. One is using 'HTTP 403 Forbidden' to tell users that they cannot access the site. From the article: 'However, chief among my concerns is the technical way this censorship is implemented. At the moment, my ISP serves up an HTTP 403 error.' ... 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."' So, should there be a specific HTTP status code to tell a user they are being censored?"
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An HTTP Status Code For Censorship?

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  • Re:Exactly (Score:5, Informative)

    by Samantha Wright (1324923) on Saturday June 09, 2012 @05:32PM (#40270761) Homepage Journal
    Here's the rest of the list for those looking to be similarly innovative [wikipedia.org]. Personally, I vote for 418.9: Government is a tinpot.
  • by next_ghost (1868792) on Saturday June 09, 2012 @06:07PM (#40270975)

    As for the error code, 403 (Forbidden) is described as "The server understood the request, but is refusing to fulfill it". Is this not technically accurate?

    It's not accurate because the server didn't even recieve the request. The request was intercepted in transit and blocked by third party.

  • Re:Easy (Score:4, Informative)

    by KTheorem (999253) on Saturday June 09, 2012 @06:08PM (#40270991)
    I think that should be "1984—Site Doubleplus Ungood - Minitrue"
  • by Sir_Sri (199544) on Saturday June 09, 2012 @06:17PM (#40271037)

    Censorship need not be to hide the existence of information from the public, only restrict their access to it. The Chinese government is actively trying to hide the existence of the Tienanmen square massacre, and that's certain the form of censorship we think of most, but it's not all of it. The British government isn't hiding that the pirate bay exists, they are simply saying you aren't allowed to access it from within the UK. Pixelating porn or graphic violence isn't telling you that people don't have penises or their heads blown off it is done because seeing it could (according to the censor) be damaging to you.

    For the british government a 'censorship' code makes a lot of sense. "You are attempting to access material forbidden to persons within the UK, for information on why this information is blocked click here'. The same could be said for much of the 'morality' police in the middle east. "This site contains blasphemous material and to protect you from its content we are preventing your access, this helpful message brought to you by the police of vice and virtue'. In fact in those cases a censorship status code would be an indication that the bureaucracy is doing the job it is tasked with doing, and something they can point to as places they have blocked.

    In the same way your anti phishing filter might be censoring you from some malicious website, they're quite happy to tell you that you've been blocked from that site, because you've actually asked them to censor it for you. The government in the UK especially, was asked by the public who voted them into office to make decisions, including censoring material (as that is a government power) in their best interests.

    The UK government through the film classification board censors films and games, or it used to until some of that power was transfered to the EU. What criteria they used for censorship wasn't a secret, and they even had processes for appeals and re-evaluations if you felt like the censorship was unfair. Everyone knew what they were doing, because that was their mandate, rate films, restrict access to them, and prevent harmful material from getting into the UK. Website censorship isn't fundamentally any different, by 'importing' a banned film from the US or france or whatever you were doing the mail order equivalent of changing your DNS provider. The fact that the legal situation in the UK hasn't caught up to DNS providers yet doesn't mean it won't.

  • Re:666 (Score:5, Informative)

    by gman003 (1693318) on Saturday June 09, 2012 @06:49PM (#40271195)

    Bad idea for internationalization.

    While 666 is considered "evil" and "bad" in most Western (read: Christian) cultures, that does not apply elsewhere. Notably in Arabic-speaking countries: 6 is considered lucky, especially in combinations (one particularly wealthy Qatari spent millions on the phone number 666-6666). I have heard this is because, in Arabic, 6 is "ellah", which has obvious similarities to "Allah".

    Same with the Chinese - 6 is considered lucky, and 666 has no particular meaning. And in Jewish numerology, six is associated with God - exactly the opposite of what you intend.

    Unless you're suggesting that neither the Arabs, nor the Chinese, engage in censorship...

  • Re:666 (Score:5, Informative)

    by CastrTroy (595695) on Saturday June 09, 2012 @07:30PM (#40271345) Homepage
    For all who are wondering 6489, or more obviously 6/4/89 (June 4, 1989) is the date of the Tianamen Square massacre.
  • Non issue (Score:3, Informative)

    by Cigarra (652458) on Saturday June 09, 2012 @07:33PM (#40271357)
    403 is exactly right: [ietf.org]

    "The request was a legal request, but the server is refusing to respond to it"

    Next question please.
  • Re:666 (Score:5, Informative)

    by SuricouRaven (1897204) on Saturday June 09, 2012 @08:57PM (#40271707)
    An interesting theory, but with a slight flaw: The earliest manuscripts don't say 666, but 616. It's very possible that 666 was a corruption that displaced the earlier number.
  • Re:666 (Score:5, Informative)

    by Attila Dimedici (1036002) on Saturday June 09, 2012 @09:27PM (#40271829)
    The problem with that is that the oldest manuscript reference we have to the number is a reference in writings by Iranaeus in the 2nd century AD where he says that the number is 666. The oldest manuscript copies of Revelation 13 which have the number as 616 are from the 3rd century AD. Iranaeus was a student of a student of the author of revelation. While it is possible Iranaeus was wrong about what the author of Revelation originally wrote, it is reasonable to assume that he was correct, especially since he refers to scribal errors in the number in some manuscripts.
  • Re:No problem (Score:4, Informative)

    by pthisis (27352) on Sunday June 10, 2012 @12:46AM (#40272441) Homepage Journal

    Having said that, there's a reason why Washington was nicknamed "Cincinnatus". Strong leaders who would voluntarily give up power when it's no longer needed have always been hard to find.

    It's a terrible nickname, in general, though. Cincinnatus stepped down from an essentially military position at the end of the war, but he didn't similarly give up his truly governmental position as Senator. And he spent his entire career opposing the sort of Constitution that Washington fought for, and opposing equality for the people.

    In fact, he served as one of the most widely hated politicians in Roman history well into his 80s--he was beloved by the patrician noble class who wrote numerous hagiographies, but as a Senator and politician he was a horribly classist ruler who spent his entire career opposing the right of the lower and middle classes to involve themselves in governance. Even where the lower classes had the legal right to form tribunes with governmental power, he'd send his son Caeso Quinctius with troops to break them up and prevent them from reaching quorum (thereby preventing any general legal reform that might benefit the majority).

    Indeed, he was so despised as a ruler that the Law of the Twelve Tables and the Roman Constitution were largely written as a backlash to his unmitigated pro-aristocratic draconianism. Plebian leader Terentilius opposed him for decades and advocated the passage of codified laws protecting all Romans and allowing plebs to run for Consul; eventually he managed to organize a secessio plebis (essentially a general strike) while the army was away and unable to put it down, thereby outmaneuvering Cincinatus' pro-patrician bloc and forcing the passage of the Law of Twelve Tables.

    It's also worth noting that the dictatorship that he's so famous for giving up was a six-month term as Magister Populi ("Master of the People"), which was created for the express purpose of putting down the Aequi and other tribes in revolt. It's not like he was absolute ruler for life and gave it up.

  • Why? The H isn't silent, is it?

    Getting wildly offtopic, but I often have this conversation at work (speaking English in a country of mostly non-native English speakers) when I talk about "An MFP". They often ask me why I don't say "A MFP" instead.

    The reasoning is that the "a" vs "an" is applied on pronunciation, not on spelling. When the next SOUND starts with a vowel, you use "an", otherwise you use "a".
    So, "An em-eff-pee" and "An aitch-tee-tee-pee" are correct.

    Confusion can arise when in some cases some people pronounce an acronym as a word, but others pronounce only the letters. I can't imagine this being an issue with HTTP (or MFP), but SQL does immediately spring to mind. The written phrase "A SQL Server" should be read as "A sequel server"; whereas the written phrase "An SQL server" should be read as "An ess-kyoo-el server"

    Outside of acronyms, your own dialect of English can also make a difference. In some dialects, the initial "H" on many words is dropped. Some dialects also drop it or pronounce it on specific words while all others follow a general rule. This leads to the "a hotel"/"an hotel" ("an 'otel") and "a herb"/"an herb" ("an 'erb") discussions that pop up from time to time.

  • Re:666 (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 10, 2012 @02:52AM (#40272775)

    I have heard this is because, in Arabic, 6 is "ellah", which has obvious similarities to "Allah".

    Wrong.

    In Arabic the number 6 is pronounced "sitteh". If fact, there is no number pronounced anywhere close to "ellah" or "allah". The only two numbers from 1 to 10 that even start with a vowel are 4 (arba'a) and 10 ('ashrah). And because Arabic numbers follow a pattern, just like most languages, this rule holds (ie: 40 starts with a vowel, 400 starts with a vowel, etc).

    Perhaps you're recalling this ( http://www.beholdthebeast.com/islam__quran_and_666.htm ) Christian propaganda?

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