Tunisian journalist sues government agency for blocking Facebook, claims damage for the use of 404 error message instead of 403

Tunisian journalist and blogger Zied El-Hen filed a suit this week in a Tunisian court against the Tunisian Internet Agency for blocking the social networking Web site Facebook, according to a report by Reuters (Arabic). The journalist demands about $5,000 as a compensation for the damages which the blocking caused to him. He said the fact that the Tunisian President himself had to intervene to have the site unblocked last week is an evidence that the blocking was wrong and illegal.

In an interesting technical argument he said that the the agency mislead him by serving the message 404 (Not Found) error message instead of the 403 message (Access Forbidden), which the agency serves to users who attempt to access banned sites. This action of misleading (Not Found vs. Forbidden) caused him material as well as punitive damages, he said.

The 404 message or Not Found error message is a standard response code which means that the user connected to the site, Facebook in this case, but the site, Facebook, could not find what was requested. The 403 (Forbidden) message, however means that the user was able to communicate with the site, Facebook, but the server forbids him/her from accessing the site.

The President of Tunisia Zine Al Abidine Ben Ali ordered the unblocking of the site last week after it was blocked by the country's ISPs without giving any reason.

ONI will monitor the progress of this unprecedented legal case and report any development.

Here is a screen shot I took

Here is a screen shot I took during WSIS in Tunisia in 2005. You can see that the 404 page is taken from Internet Explorer, but I was using Firefox! You can see from the HTTP headers that the 404 is fake.

One important issue to remember in this case is that Tunisia is using SmartFilter, a filtering product developed by the U.S. company Secure Computing. This product is used in many countries including in Saudi Arabia, Oman, Sudan, United Arab Emirates, and previously in Iran. In these other countries they use SmarFilter to show users a blockpage that indicates to the user that the content is intentionally blocked. Instead, Tunisia uses this blockpage functionality to fake a 404 error page.

Tunisia uses SmartFilter to block access to categories of websites, such as pornography, but also adds their own targets, often political web sites, to the blocking lists. Sometimes content that was not intended to be blocked is blocked in all of Tunisia due to miscategorizations by SmartFilter.

Tunisian journalist blog

Tunisian journalist blog have been blocked .It's really horrible to read because journalist are the responsible people who focus on the public issues.Make the government to move accordingly to the problem.
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Tunisian journalist blog

Tunisian journalist blog have been blocked .It's really horrible to read because journalist are the responsible people who focus on the public issues.Make the government to move accordingly to the problem.
==================================================

shiny

California Dui

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So just out of curiosity,

So just out of curiosity, how did serving the 404 as opposed to the 403 cause him damage? Did he think the entire Facebook was down which caused him to do, or not do, things which he would not have done if it had been a 404? Kind of baffling...Also, why didn't this guy just use a proxy if he lives in a country where the government blogs innocuous sites like Facebook? Even so, good for him for standing up to the government, although one has to assume that can be hazardous in a place like Tunisa.
---
Alan S.
San Diego personal injury lawyer

Everyone should remember

Everyone should remember that Tunisia is using SmartFilter, a filtering product developed by the U.S. company Secure Computing. This product is used in many countries including in Saudi Arabia, Oman, Sudan, United Arab Emirates, and previously in Iran.

Dont you feel that has been

Dont you feel that has been leagl?The journalist demands about $5,000 as a compensation for the damages which the blocking caused to him. He said the fact that the Tunisian President himself had to intervene to have the site unblocked last week is an evidence that the blocking was wrong and illegal.

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Tunisian journalist blog

Tunisian journalist blog have been blocked .It's really horrible to read because journalist are the auto hifi responsible people who focus on the public issues.Make the government to move accordingly to the problem.

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This is unbelievable that

This is unbelievable that tunisian journalists don't know in 21th century anything about webproxy or VPN connection.

Re:

The 404 message or Not Found error message is a standard response code which means that the user connected to the site, Facebook in this case, but the site, Facebook, could not find what was requested. logo design company | corporate identity logo

This case was dismissed by

This case was dismissed by the Third District Court in November 2008, and there is currently no avenue open to appeal this decision. But it could be a precedent for Tunisian law.

It seems strange to me why a

It seems strange to me why a country would need to block Facebook anyway. Is there also no information why Zied El-Hen claimed $5000 compensation. Was he using it for work or something?

James
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'Every generation has its

'Every generation has its distractions, but I think Facebook is a unique phenomenon.'

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Actually they can use web proxy or ip software to access blocked websites.

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In an interesting technical argument he said that the the agency mislead him by serving the message 404 (Not Found) error message instead of the 403 message (Access Forbidden), which the agency serves to users who attempt to access banned sites. This action of misleading (Not Found vs. Forbidden) caused him material as well as punitive damages, he said.

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According to the argument, he is basically suing them for lying about the error message.

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In an interesting technical

In an interesting technical argument he said that the the agency mislead him by serving the message 404 (Not Found) error message instead of the 403 message (Access Forbidden), which the agency serves to users who attempt to access banned sites.
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Protector of the public or villain?

Some could argue that certain websites should be blocked (i.e. companies blocking sites to minimize employee distractions, prevent spread of hate speech). I have also heard of ISPs wanting to charge popular websites a fee to be accessible.

In an interesting technical

In an interesting technical argument he said that the the agency mislead him by serving the message 404 (Not Found) error message instead of the 403 message (Access Forbidden), which the agency serves to users who attempt to access banned sites.

Tunisian journalist blog

Tunisian journalist blog have been blocked .It's really horrible to read because journalist are the responsible people who focus on the public issues.Make the government to move accordingly to the problem.
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Actually they can use web proxy or ip software to access blocked

Actually they can use web proxy or ip software to access blocked websites.

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Tunisian journalist and

Tunisian journalist and blogger Zied El-Hen filed a suit this week in a Tunisian court against the Tunisian Internet Agency for blocking the social networking Web site Facebook, according to a report by Reuters (Arabic). The journalist demands about $5,000 as a compensation for the damages which the blocking caused to him. He said the fact that the Tunisian President himself had to intervene to have the site unblocked last week is an evidence that the blocking was wrong and illegal.
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Can I post it to my blog

Can I post it to my blog eveloped by the U.S. company Secure Computing. This product is used in many countries including in Saudi Arabia, Oman, Sudan, United Arab Emira

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During the past few years the government 70-631 has attempted to increase access to ICTs by rebuilding infrastructure to improve connectivity, encouraging "Free Internet" programs that allow internet access for the cost of an ordinary telephone call, and promoting competition 70-561 among ISPs to lower prices. In 2004, the government set up an initiative to encourage widespread computer use 642-436 by removing customs fees and creating the Family PC concept, according to which each family should own a personal 220-601 computer. Authorities set a price ceiling for computer hardware and established programs offering loans at low interest rates for families to purchase the necessary equipment. The program also provided an internet subscription with every computer sold. Unfortunately, the project did not achieve the intended results because computer prices remained prohibitively high—about 700 dinars, or three times the minimum monthly salary—even with the government incentives. Although many people are unable to connect at home, the government claims that universities, research centers, laboratories, and high schools have a 100 percent connectivity rate, and that primary schools are 70 percent connected

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