Error 451: Freedom of speech not found. UK Gawker readers left baffled

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:

Freedom of speech error message on Gawker

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.

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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

Guru Meditation:
XID: 2204197048

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.

Google Cache of Gawker story

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.

Graham Cluley is an award-winning keynote speaker who has given presentations around the world about cybersecurity, hackers, and online privacy. A veteran of the computer security industry since the early 1990s, he wrote the first ever version of Dr Solomon's Anti-Virus Toolkit for Windows, makes regular media appearances, and is the co-host of the popular "Smashing Security" podcast. Follow him on Twitter, Mastodon, Threads, Bluesky, or drop him an email.

4 comments on “Error 451: Freedom of speech not found. UK Gawker readers left baffled”

  1. Carson

    Am I the only one to smell the PR guys perfume in this HTML?

  2. dgf

    "I’m based in the UK, and I found, for instance, that Google had cached the webpages before they were blocked."

    Is it really the case that google cached the page *before* it was blocked? Isn't it more likely that the block doesn't apply to the google (cache) IP space?

    1. Graham CluleyGraham Cluley · in reply to dgf


      Or, put another way, Gawker's block against UK browsers didn't stop UK users accessing the content via Google's cache. Additionally, the content was available to those who used – say – US-based web proxies.

  3. Hitting the 451 error on Gawker blocks the story but the main thrust (as it were) is still apparent from the url…

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