With all the court-ordered censorship of file-sharing sites like The Pirate Bay and MegaUpload, Google’s Tim Bray has decided your standard 403 status code just won’t do. As the Verge reports, Mr. Bray, who co-invented XML and now works as a developer advocate for Android, is submitting a draft for a new HTTP Status Code that would let users know when a webpage they’ve requested can’t be accessed because of legal restrictions like state-censorship.
After the UK High Court ordered ISPs to block The Pirate Bay, 403 Forbidden status codes have popped up as a sign that the site was unavailable. In Mr. Bray’s proposal, however, an optional code called 451 Unavailable for Legal Reasons could indicate details about the restrictions, including which legal authority is censoring the content and what content the restriction applies to.
Of course countries in the business of censoring content don’t necessarily like to draw attention to it. Mr. Bray writes, “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.” It’s like he’s reading China’s mind or something.