Google has confirmed that the surge of Michael Jackson-related searches on Google News Thursday was first interpreted as an attack on its service.
Google News was inaccessible for some people Thursday afternoon right as rumors of Jackson's death began to circulate, replaced by an error message reading "We're sorry, but your query looks similar to automated requests from a computer virus or spyware application. To protect our users, we can't process your request right now."
Of course, those queries were quite legitimate, as millions around the world searched for accurate information regarding Jackson following reports that he had suffered cardiac arrest. The spike in queries began at about 2:45 p.m. PDT Thursday, and Google thought the traffic was an attack for about 25 minutes before realizing what was going on.
Google also noted that it saw a huge spike in mobile searches. Yahoo's data backed up Google's; it set a record for unique visitors in a single day with 16.4 million visitors, and its lead story on Jackson's death was the most highly-visited story in its history.