Updated Jan 5, 2024 - Politics & Policy

"Utterly hammered": Epstein document release crashes major websites

Donald and Melania Trump, Jeffrey Epstein, Ghislaine Maxwell stand together

Donald Trump and now-wife Melania, Jeffrey Epstein, and British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell pose together at Mar-a-Lago in Florida on Feb. 12, 2000. Photo: Davidoff Studios/Getty Images

A traffic boost to major websites hosting the newly unsealed court documents related to Jeffrey Epstein led to hours-long outages on Wednesday.

Why it matters: The surge, which overloaded websites such as DocumentCloud and CourtListener, underscores the enduring and widespread public interest around Epstein.

  • The late financier and convicted sex offender's network of associates included some of the most powerful people in the world.

Driving the news: "We are getting utterly hammered by the Epstein docs and are working on a fix," the Free Law Project, a nonprofit that runs CourtListener — a site that provides free access to court records — wrote on X.

  • The group apologized for the problems, but as of Thursday afternoon, appeared to still be experiencing technical issues.

Meanwhile, DocumentCloud also apologized for the hours-long outage on its website, which stretched into Thursday morning, citing "large interest" in the files.

  • "We ended up serving 62 TB of documents yesterday," the service said on X, noting it experienced "about 7x usual search volume."
  • A spokesperson for DocumentCloud told Axios that 3.62 million people had viewed the documents, and that the high volume of searches for keywords, such as names, caused the servers to crash.
  • PACER, a government site that hosts federal court documents, also crashed, per Vice.

Details: The Free Law Project told Axios its service was "partially out" for about an hour as a result of the surge.

  • "Despite a huge architectural overhaul we did last year to deal with this problem, we still had some issues serving the Epstein documents," said executive director Mike Lissner.
  • Calling the traffic "off the charts," Lissner noted CourtListener has handled other viral documents "without issue," including indictments of former President Trump.
  • The Epstein-related pages have gotten 6.5 million page views as of Friday afternoon, per Lissner.
CourtListener downloads between July and January. Provided by The Free Law Project.

Catch up quick: On Wednesday evening, a federal judge in New York unsealed documents in a civil lawsuit against Ghislaine Maxwell, Epstein's longtime conspirator who in 2022 was sentenced to two decades in prison for helping him sexually abuse girls.

Zoom in: The hotly anticipated documents included a raft of high-profile names, including former presidents Bill Clinton and Trump.

  • However, a person appearing in the records does not mean they are accused of illegality. Dozens of people are named, including witnesses, victims and others connected to the Maxwell suit.
  • Many of those named were also already known to be connected to Epstein, leaving interested readers with little new information to pore over.

Go deeper: What to know about the unsealed Jeffrey Epstein documents

Editor's note: This story has been updated with additional information from The Free Law Project.

Go deeper