Google has agreed to change how it publishes news in New Zealand after it was criticised for breaching a court order in a high-profile murder case.
Google had refused to tighten publication standards after it sent an email to users in December that named a man accused of killing a British backpacker, Grace Millane, in violation of a suppression order.
This week New Zealand’s justice minister, Andrew Little, accused Google of “giving the middle finger” to the court system and to Millane’s family. He said a one-paragraph response from Google that had indicated no action was pending was “contemptible” and “extraordinarily disrespectful”.
On Friday Google said it respected New Zealand law, there had been a “miscommunication” and it was taking the issue seriously.
“We understand the right to a fair trial and acknowledge that this is a fundamental part of the legal system,” it said in a letter to Little’s office. As a result, it said, the Google Trends feature that led to the accused’s name being published had been suspended in New Zealand.
“This means that people will no longer receive emails on any trending searches for New Zealand and provides even further assurance against any recurrence,” it said.
Little welcomed Google’s “responsible” change of policy. “Work on how suppression orders will be upheld in the digital age will continue,” he said.
Millane, 22, was killed in December shortly after arriving in Auckland on holiday. A 27-year-old man has pleaded not guilty to her murder.