Gawker wrote a story last night about Rebekah Brooks, the former News of the World editor, and various senior members of the Murdoch media empire.
But if you try to read it from the UK, this is what you’ll see:
Rebekah Brooks and fellow former editor Andy Coulson are facing conspiracy charges related to the hacking of phones by the disgraced British newspaper, and Gawker’s story - which is, admittedly, somewhat sleazy itself - has been blocked from UK web browsers.
One imagines that this block is in case the pair’s forthcoming trial is prejudiced.
Hence the unusual “error” message:
Error 451 freedom of speech not found
freedom of speech not found
Varnish cache server
Well, at least it beats a dull “We’re blocking you from reading this article after we received some legal advice.”
Error 451, in case you were wondering, *is* inspired by Ray Bradbury’s science fiction novel “Fahrenheit 451” and is intended to mean that the webpage is unavailable for legal reasons.
There’s no doubt, however, that some of Gawker’s less nerdy readers might have been baffled by the odd error message.
Of course, if you are based in the UK and really want to read the Gawker article, there are ways to do so.
I’m based in the UK, and I found, for instance, that Google had cached the webpages before they were blocked.
Now, I’m going to assume that the allegations made in the Gawker story are completely untrue, and could harm the chances of certain parties having a fair trial later this year. Certainly, the Gawker story doesn’t appear to substantiated by anything much in the way of facts, and it reads more like salacious gossip and rumour.
But what this incident does prove is that once something is published on the internet, it’s very very hard to hide it - particularly to certain audiences, or specific countries. As soon as something is “out there”, your chances of being able to lock it away back in a box are often very small.
Remember that next time you publish something you might later regret on a website or social network.