New internet error code identifies censored websites

Everyone on the internet has come across at least couple error codes, the most well-known being 404, for page not found, while other common ones include 500, for internal server error, or 403, for a "forbidden" page. However, with latter, there's the growing issue of why a certain webpage has become forbidden, or who made it so. In an effort to address things like censorship or "legal obstacles," a new code has been published, to be used when legal demands require access to a page be blocked: error 451.

The number is a knowing reference Fahrenheit 451, the novel by Ray Bradbury that depicted a dystopian future where books are banned for spreading dissenting ideas, and in burned as a way censor the spread of information. The code itself was approved for use by the Internet Engineering Steering Group (IESG), which helps maintain internet standards.

The idea for code 451 originally came about around 3 years ago, when a UK court ruling required some websites to block The Pirate Bay. Most sites in turn used the 403 "forbidden" code, making it unclear to users about what the issue was. The goal of 451 is to eliminate some of the confusion around why sites may be blocked.

The use of the code is completely voluntary, however, and requires developers to begin adopting it. But if widely implemented, it should be able to communicate to users that some information has been taken down because of a legal demand, or is being censored by a national government.