In the past several hours, I have received multiple e-mail messages from readers claiming that internet behemoth Google, for a brief period of time Saturday morning, flagged a number of conservative websites including NewsBusters, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Fox News as possibly harmful to computers.
UPDATE: This is NOT a problem exclusive to conservative websites.
NewsBusters reader James Marie e-mailed moments ago (with permission):
I just read your article: You’ve Got to Wonder About Google and I wanted to tell you about Google blocking Fox News this morning. When I tried to bring up Fox news at about 10:45 AM, this is what I received:
Warning - visiting this web site may harm your computer!
- Return to the previous page and pick another result.
- Try another search to find what you're looking for.
Or you can continue to http://www.foxnews.com/ at your own risk. For detailed information about the problems we found, visit Google's Safe Browsing diagnostic page for this site.
For more information about how to protect yourself from harmful software online, you can visit StopBadware.org.
If you are the owner of this web site, you can request a review of your site using Google's Webmaster Tools. More information about the review process is available in Google's Webmaster Help Center.
Advisory provided by
I then tried to access Fox News several other ways and received this type message every way I tried for Fox:
This site may harm your computer.Every site had this note: This site may harm your computer.
Breaking News, Latest News and Current News from FOXNews.com. Breaking news and video. Latest Current News: US, World, Entertainment, Health, Business, ... www.foxnews.com/ - Similar pages
I then tried several other conservative sites and got the: Warning - visiting this web site may harm your computer!
Fascinating. Earlier in the morning, a reader sent the following to our tip line:
I log on to NEWSBUSTERS USEING [sic] google [sic], it took me to GOOGLE SEARCH and said NEWSBUSTERS can harm your computer
Another message to our tip line stated:
Briefly, on Saturday, January 31,around [sic] 10:30 EST, when I went into Google to go to Limbaugh's website, the search engine indicated that if I were to access this site it would damage my computer. It said the same thing on other sites such as Hannity, Beck, etc. I wish I copied the disclosure. Interestingly enough, a short time later, Google eliminated the warning...what's going on? Was it testing something? I sent emails to Hannity and Limbaugh to indicate this.
In the past, many tech-types have suggested that these warnings were actually caused by problems at the websites in question and might not indicate anything nefarious on Google's part.
However, assuming these tipsters are correct, did all of these websites suddenly experience the same software glitch Saturday?
P.S. If you saw similar messages when trying to access NewsBusters or other websites today, please advise.
*****Update: NB reader James Marie claims the following websites also experienced flags on Saturday:
The Right Side of Life
Citizen Wells Blog
*****Update II: NBer kg informed readers in the comments section:
Today Heritage Foundation came up with a mallware warning.
Weekly Standard has has a "known virus" site as well.
Also "Olbermann Watch" videos have been taken off you tube.
NBer shawn confirmed the Heritage sighting.
*****Update III: The Calgary Sun is reporting this to be a system-wide error (h/t NB reader Tony McHugh):
If you did a Google Internet search between 9:30 a.m. ET and 10:25 a.m. ET on Saturday, you likely were unable to access any website in the search results list.
Google labelled all websites, even www.google.ca, as a malicious website with the warning ”This site may harm your computer.”
Clicking the warning took the user to a page which explained that “This warning message appears with search results we’ve identified as sites that may install malicious software on your computer.”Google later said the problem occurred because of “human error” and issued an apology.