Google has suspended its trending topics emails in New Zealand after the government criticized the company for indicating that New Zealanders were frequently searching for information on a murder suspect.
Reuters reports that Google suspended its email alerting system in New Zealand following criticism from the government for failing to suppress details about the identity of Jesse Kempson, who is accused of killing 22-year-old British backpacker Grace Millane. New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern expressed disappointment about Google’s failure to follow a court order censoring Kempson’s name.
Despite court orders demanding that Kempson’s name be censored, his name appeared in the Google Trends emails as a top search item in New Zealand. A Google spokesperson commented on the issue stating: “We understand the sensitivity around this issue and we have suspended Google Trends emails about searches trending in New Zealand.” The email lists the top searches for a particular region or country, showing that despite the New Zealand government’s desire to censor Kempson’s name, the citizens of the country took to Google to search for information on him.
Ross Young, Google’s government affairs and public policy manager, said in a letter to New Zealand Justice Minister Andrew Little that the company respects New Zealand law and understood how sensitive the issue was. “This … provides even further assurance against any recurrence,” Young stated.
Grace Millane was traveling after finishing university and went missing on December 1, 2018, in New Zealand’s largest city, Auckland. Police founder her body in a bush area a few meters away from a scenic drive in Auckland’s Waitakere Ranges.