The surge in Internet traffic yesterday as Michael Jackson fans searched for information about his death had a deep impact on the Web, Ars Technica reports. Sites as diverse as Twitter and the iTunes Store slowed to a crawl, but perhaps the most profound effect was on Google. The search engine interpreted the high volume as a cyberattack and went into so-called “self-protection mode.”
That means Google threw up alerts and CAPTCHAs—tests to confirm a user is in fact human—in response to the surge, which a spokesman called “volcanic.” The caution was not unfounded: Spammers mobilized immediately, sending out fake emails touting info about Jackson to harvest addresses. Status-update traffic on Facebook tripled, Twitterers were unable to tweet for a period, and classic Jackson songs are shooting up the iTunes chart.