Google is apparently proposing a new error code for internet censorship, which will let users know when they stumble across a site blocked by the government.
The error code is 451, a clear allusion to Ray Bradbury’s 1950s dystopian novel Fahrenheit 451. Bradbury had envisioned a world in which firefighters tear about town burning books and keeping the population uninformed and relatively daft. However, the advent of the internet proved that the vast majority of the population tends to be amazingly stupid and misinformed even when access to all sorts of information is just a click away. So although it’s a nice story, it comes across as rather dated nowadays.
Google’s Tim Bray told The Guardian that it is impossible to eliminate all restrictions to free speech, but the least Google can do is warn people about them.
“I feel that when such restrictions are imposed, they should be done so transparently; for example, most civilized people find Britain’s system of superinjunctions loathsome and terrifying," he said.
If the Internet Engineering Task Force picks up Google’s initiative and chooses to deploy it, we could soon see Error: 451 codes popping up across the web, namely in countries that aren’t too keen on the idea of free speech and human rights.