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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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  • by Gothmolly (148874) on Saturday June 09, 2012 @05:09PM (#40270587)

    Why would you tell people you're censoring them, when you can just as easily NOT tell them and keep them in the dark... you know, to CENSOR them.

  • by Shavano (2541114) on Saturday June 09, 2012 @05:11PM (#40270611)

    In a normal person's point of view, the user has not erred. The government has erred, and HTTP has no provision for that.

    From the government's point of view, the user has erred because no right-thinking user would want to access a proscribed IP.

    So what it comes down to is, should HTTP represent the user's POV or the Government's?

  • HTTP 451 (Score:5, Insightful)

    by IonOtter (629215) on Saturday June 09, 2012 @05:12PM (#40270621) Homepage

    I nominate HTTP 451 - Site is not permitted in your country.

  • Stop. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mikkelm (1000451) on Saturday June 09, 2012 @05:15PM (#40270653)

    None. If a site absolutely must be blocked, then blackhole its IP addresses and fail resolution on the ISP's DNS servers. Middleboxes that inspect layer 4 and above are never OK, and never part of a trustworthy ISP network unless explicitly requested by the end-user.

  • Re:No problem (Score:3, Insightful)

    by MightyMartian (840721) on Saturday June 09, 2012 @05:20PM (#40270683) Journal

    Screw status codes. There should be a rifle pointed at the head of every legislator who votes on one of these sorts of measures.

  • by Daetrin (576516) on Saturday June 09, 2012 @05:22PM (#40270697)
    Because the people who are implementing the censorship are not the ones who mandated the censorship, and the goals of the two bodies may not be aligned.

    In theory an ISP might want to return a "this has been censored" code in the case of anything where some outside entity forced them to censor the content so they can pass the blame on to someone else. I don't know if any ISP would actually care enough to bother implementing it, but it's certainly a possibility.
  • Re:666 (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Shavano (2541114) on Saturday June 09, 2012 @05:24PM (#40270713)
    Only for religiously proscribes IPs. If it's proscribed for political reason the code is "1984 - Thoughtcrime found on site".
  • Re:No problem (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 09, 2012 @05:30PM (#40270745)

    Screw status codes. There should be a rifle pointed at the head of every legislator who votes on one of these sorts of measures.

    George Washington didn't get rid of big British government by voting, holding protests (don't forget your permit!), or writing his elected officials. George Washington got rid of big British government by orchestrating the execution of hundreds of British government officials...

  • Fahrenheit 451 (Score:5, Insightful)

    by warewolfsmith (196722) on Saturday June 09, 2012 @05:37PM (#40270787)
    HTTP 451, This site has been burnt.
  • Re:Stop. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SuricouRaven (1897204) on Saturday June 09, 2012 @05:38PM (#40270791)
    Not so easy. One IP may host many, many websites. Usually the budget ones, that don't justify dedicating an entire server. So they all get to share one address, just different vhosts. Simple IP blocking would often block additional sites, not just the one targetted.
  • by Luke727 (547923) on Saturday June 09, 2012 @05:42PM (#40270817) Homepage Journal

    So what it comes down to is, should HTTP represent the user's POV or the Government's?

    Neither. HTTP deals with clients and servers, not users and governments. Political issues are rightfully outside of its scope.

    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?

  • Re:666 (Score:5, Insightful)

    by FriendlyStatistician (2652203) on Saturday June 09, 2012 @05:48PM (#40270861)

    In keeping with the 3-digit status codes we already have and the use of the 4xx series to indicate that the client has apparently made an error, I think status code 451 might be more appropriate.

    RIP, Ray Bradbury.

  • by John Hasler (414242) on Saturday June 09, 2012 @05:55PM (#40270917) Homepage

    ..that explains the situation and encourages the user to click on a clicky that automatically files a complaint with the approporiate government agency and/or sends an email to the relevant minister. Should be maintained by a third party such as the EFF.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 09, 2012 @06:19PM (#40271051)

    In practice, an ISP has complete control over what they return in this situation.

    The Used could be redirected to the EFF.org [eff.org] or to the official legislation that forbade access, or one might be redirected to the homepage of a list of proxy services. If it were me in charge and I wanted to provide a public service befitting the mythical status of the benign ISP, I'd set up a simple HTML page including all of the above with a disclaimer stating that my company took a neutral position on the question of support for the newly minted Ministry of Information, and I'd include a link to Terry Gilliam's, Brazil [wikipedia.org], as well as Marshall McCluhan [marshallmcluhan.com]'s official website.

     

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 09, 2012 @06:33PM (#40271111)

    unfortunately 101 is already in use. 410 (gone, no forwarding address) is probably the smartest to use.

  • Re:HTTP 451 (Score:5, Insightful)

    by xeno (2667) on Saturday June 09, 2012 @06:39PM (#40271135)

    Mod parent up. This is brilliant, probably the best thing I've seen on /. in years. Following Bradbury's theme, how about.....

    HTTP 451: An error in your society has prevented your client from receiving the specified content.

    (And I love the fact that HTTP 450 paves the way for this.)

  • by FriendlyStatistician (2652203) on Saturday June 09, 2012 @06:46PM (#40271173)

    101 already exists, and means switching protocols. The 1xx series in general is inappropriate.

    Microsoft already used 450 as a censorship status code (for censored by Microsoft Parental Controls), so I think 451--with a nod to Ray Bradbury--would be appropriate.

  • by Luke727 (547923) on Saturday June 09, 2012 @07:37PM (#40271371) Homepage Journal

    I don't disagree, but if you're going to make that argument then no status code can be accurate and thus the question is rendered moot. Ideally this kind of filtering would not be put in place (DNS and IP blocks should be enough), but we don't live in an ideal world. If this type of filtering is going to be put in place then, given the available options, 403 seems to be a reasonable status code to return.

  • by Mozai (3547) on Saturday June 09, 2012 @07:38PM (#40271381) Homepage

    The proper one would be in the 5xx range, since the client's request is correct but the server is unable to comply.

    503 - Service Unavailable is the obvious choice.

    If we want to be cheeky about it, we could respond 305 - Use Proxy to hint that the client making the request can't come through here and must use some other path.

  • Re:No problem (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bky1701 (979071) on Saturday June 09, 2012 @08:37PM (#40271655) Homepage
    Democracy is by definition tyranny of the majority. That's why most countries have constitutions that cannot be violated and why there is no pure democracy.
  • Re:666 (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Xtifr (1323) on Saturday June 09, 2012 @08:59PM (#40271717) Homepage

    So, in other words, a way of encoding the date that only Americans would recognize.

  • Re:No problem (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ultranova (717540) on Sunday June 10, 2012 @12:44PM (#40275931)

    You seem to be forgetting that the wolves are going to kill and eat the sheep. The sheep has every right to defend itself, even if that inconveniences the wolves (skipping a meal won't kill them).

    Skipping enough meals will kill the wolves That's why the analogy sucks. It describes a situation where neither liberty nor freedom can possibly exist: the sheep can't trust the wolves, so it has little choice but to keep them helpless and unarmed. The sheep is privileged over the wolves and must keep itself that way in order to survive. It's not good enough for the sheep to just defend itself against, because if the two wolves are allowed to become equal (armed), they can overpower it through numbers. Consequently, the sheep must actively suppress the wolves.

    So while the analogy pretends to describe liberty, it actually paints a dystopia where a minority elite oppresses the majority through threats of violence and justifies this with the fact that they'll be killed if they ever lose their grip on power. They are also entirely correct: the majority doesn't have any choice in the matter due to convoluted circumstances. Consequently, no negotiation or program of democratization is possible. The sheep either rule the wolves with an iron hoof or die.

    That's why I oppose this particular analogy: not because of some bullshit notion that people should not be allowed to defend themselves, but because it's a very bad analogy.

  • Re:No problem (Score:4, Insightful)

    by tehcyder (746570) on Monday June 11, 2012 @04:05AM (#40280913) Journal

    Screw status codes. There should be a rifle pointed at the head of every legislator who votes on one of these sorts of measures.

    Comments such as this help me to take the temperature of the slashdot community from time to time. It used to be that I'd see a lot of sneering comments against gun culture in the US, but maybe the American forefathers we're right that the citizens should have the right to arm themselves in the face of tyranny.

    It's just odd that it took DRM to bring about this change in attitude in American slashdotters, if I've observed the trend correctly.

    Only a rich autistic teenager stuffed full of self-entitlement would think that trying to prevent access to free downloads of shitty commercial music and movies was cause for armed rebellion.

    The whining fucktards on slashdot aren't representative of normal people's reactions.

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