People searching for news about the music icon after word spread about his condition were met by a cryptic message: “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.”
It may sound as if Google goofed, but on the contrary, its system worked almost flawlessly. The alert was probably automatic, because traffic was at a significantly higher volume than under normal conditions, and many searches were mobile searches. The company caught onto what was really happening approximately 25 minutes later, CNET reported.
Google did not release specific traffic data, but Yahoo received 16.4 million visitors within 24 hours. The fact that both sites remained accessible is laudable; there was no change in performance from my end.
Had there been a major emergency somewhere in the world, the search giants would have remained a useful conduit for people seeking credible information about what was going on. The companies also showed that they could effectively protect their services from an actual attack.