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Web status code tells you when sites are censored

If you see a 451 error, you know a government tried to silence something.

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With a few exceptions, web status codes are meant to indicate errors. A 404 page shows up when you tried to reach content that wasn't found, for example. However, there's now a code for those times when that absence is all too intentional. The newly published 451 code (a nod to Fahrenheit 451, naturally) lets site hosts and network providers warn you when censorship and similar "legal obstacles" prevent you from seeing web material. In theory, this gives you a much better explanation than the generic 403 "forbidden" code -- and a not-so-subtle hint that you need to jump through hoops to get the truth.

Whether or not it actually works is another story. After all, a censorship-happy country could go one step further and block 451 codes so that there's no direct confirmation of shady behavior. You could still put two and two together, but the message may be most useful in freer nations where content bans are more likely to be the exception than the rule.

[Image credit: Alexander Koerner/Getty Images]

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