Google suspends Trends emails in NZ

By Dylan Bushell-Embling
Tuesday, 09 July, 2019

Google suspends Trends emails in NZ

Google has confirmed it has suspended its Google Trends emails in New Zealand after it inadvertently violated a suppression order by naming the accused killer in a high-profile murder case.

A Google Trends email sent to New Zealand subscribers in December named the man charged with the murder of British backpacker Grace Millane, despite a suppression order demanding his name be withheld.

While Google held meetings with Justice Minister Andrew Little in December and insisted that its systems are being reviewed to prevent a repeat incident, an irate Little complained last week that Google had responded to a follow-up inquiry with a one-paragraph response stating that no action is pending.

Little told AFP that the response was “contemptible” and was “giving the middle finger to New Zealand justice and the family of Grace Millane”, and insisted that if Google does not take action then he would find a way to “put pressure on them through the legal system or through international agreements”.

Google has now sent a follow-up email apologising for what it said was a “miscommunication”, and has revealed that it has suspended Google Trends emails about searches trending in New Zealand indefinitely.

Google said it had already taken action to prevent the accused name from being included in future Trends Alert emails, as well as procedures to reduce the possibility of similar emails being sent in the future, but was suspending Trends emails in New Zealand to provide “even further assurance against any recurrence”.

Meanwhile, Google is facing a contempt of court charge in Australia in what could prove to be a landmark case about the culpability of social media and other platforms for defamatory messages posted by their users.

The NSW Supreme Court granted an injunction on Thursday demanding that Google remove defamatory reviews about a high-profile Sydney businessman suing the company for defamation, and that it prevent any further reviews about him to be uploaded for a limited time.

Google was found to have failed to have removed the defamatory reviews by Friday and the Supreme Court issued a direction to charge the company with contempt of court. The reviews have since been removed.

Google insists it has processes in place to allow defamed individuals to have reviews and similar content removed. But the lawyer representing the plaintiff, Kennedys partner Rebekah Giles, has said that the plaintiff has been in constant communication with Google seeking to have the allegedly defamatory reviews removed to no avail.

NSW is leading a nationwide review of Australia’s outdated defamation laws in order to bring them up to date for the digital age.

Image credit: © Kochelaevskiy

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