Google Labeled My Site: "This site may harm your computer"

Jan 31, 2009 - 2:04 pm 3 by
Filed Under Google

If you conducted a Google search between 9:30am and 10:25 am (EST) on Saturday, January 31st, you would have seen Google label all the search results as "This site may harm your computer." Google admitted it was a human mistake. How did it happen? Here is how Google explained it:

We maintain a list of such sites through both manual and automated methods. We work with a non-profit called to come up with criteria for maintaining this list, and to provide simple processes for webmasters to remove their site from the list.

We periodically update that list and released one such update to the site this morning. Unfortunately (and here's the human error), the URL of '/' was mistakenly checked in as a value to the file and '/' expands to all URLs. Fortunately, our on-call site reliability team found the problem quickly and reverted the file. Since we push these updates in a staggered and rolling fashion, the errors began appearing between 6:27 a.m. and 6:40 a.m. and began disappearing between 7:10 and 7:25 a.m., so the duration of the problem for any particular user was approximately 40 minutes.

In the meantime, the whole internet went berserk. There were thousands of posts in forums across the web, asking what this was all about. Thousands of webmasters posted with concern that their site had malware or Google mistakenly marked their sites as having malware. For 40 minutes or so, the Internet world was feeling very vulnerable due to this mistake. We even have tons of coverage at Techmeme.

What is a bit comical, is receiving 85 comments within 30 minutes on a post I wrote a week ago named Your Site May Harm Your Computer? Get That Google Label Removed In Hours.

Here are just some of the many discussion forums discussing this, now resolved, issue:


Popular Categories

The Pulse of the search community


Search Video Recaps

Google AI Overviews, Ranking Volatility, Web Filter, Google Ads AI Summaries & More - YouTube
Video Details More Videos Subscribe to Videos

Most Recent Articles

Search Forum Recap

Daily Search Forum Recap: May 17, 2024

May 17, 2024 - 4:00 pm
Search Video Recaps

Search News Buzz Video Recap: Google AI Overviews, Ranking Volatility, Web Filter, Google Ads AI Summaries & More

May 17, 2024 - 8:01 am
Google Search Engine Optimization

Remove Your Content From Google's AI Overviews

May 17, 2024 - 7:51 am
Google Ads

Google Ads AI Summaries Live For Some Advertisers

May 17, 2024 - 7:41 am
Google Maps

Order with Google For Food Delivery Going Away End Of June

May 17, 2024 - 7:31 am
Google Search Engine Optimization

Two New Googlebots: GoogleOther-Image & GoogleOther-Video

May 17, 2024 - 7:21 am
Previous Story: Daily Search Forum Recap: January 30, 2009