The breaking news of Michael Jackson's death on Thursday triggered an alert at Google over a potential malware attack.
As reports began to circulate, first of Jackson's hospitalisation, then of his death, some people searching for news on Google found themselves looking at a page that said: "We're sorry, but your query looks similar to automated requests from a computer virus or spyware application."
The page asked users to enter a Captcha code in order to continue their searches.
"When you get huge volumes of searches, an interstitial page comes up to make sure we aren't coming under attack," a spokesman for the company told ZDNet UK on Friday. "The volumes searching for Michael Jackson during the night were such that a page did come up, and it slowed things down for a short period."
Asked how the volume of searches compared with other breaking-news events, Google's spokesman described the spike as "volcanic" — the term used in the Google Trends labs project to define the highest level of search volumes.
"This is one of the biggest [spikes] we've seen in recent times," the spokesman said.