Barry Soper: Not a lot done over Google's name suppression breach

Barry Soper,
Publish Date
Thursday, 4 July 2019, 9:13AM
Why should Google be treated differently to any other country that breaks the law, asks Barry Soper. (Photo / Supplied)
Why should Google be treated differently to any other country that breaks the law, asks Barry Soper. (Photo / Supplied)

There's been a lot of muscle flexing but not a lot else when it comes to Google clearly breaching the suppression order of the man accused of murdering British backpacker Grace Millane.

It was a horrible crime beamed around the world and it's essential not just for Grace's family but for our country's standing that the accused is brought to trial.

But Google's simply flipped the bird at the Beehive, they're apparently not planning any changes to the way they deal with these sorts of things.

It was a deliberate act by the Internet giant, alerting people who'd signed up to "what's trending in New Zealand" by naming the accused in the heading.

Google's also reported that more than a hundred thousand searches were made using the name of the accused.

Google had a discussion about it with Jacinda Ardern and Andrew Little last January, if you listen to her and last December if you listen to him.

But it seems it wasn't raised with the company at the showcase Christchurch Call summit in Paris four months later even though nothing had been done about it then and nothing's being done about it now.

Why should Google be treated any differently to any other media company that breaches a suppression order which carries a six month jail sentence?

It seems because they're big and powerful and because they're domiciled in the United States that we seem to be reluctant.

And it seems because they say they can't do anything about it, we say well that's okay then.

Well it's not okay because it could affect the trial of Grace's alleged killer.

Jonathan Eaton QC, from the New Zealand Bar Association, is on record as saying the "alarming trend in the reporting and sharing of information in this case could open the way to defence counsel arguing that the accused could not get a fair trial."

Worse still, Eaton believes the sharing of information in the case not only endangers a fair trial but potentially any future trial at all.

That of course would be a travesty.

Another lawyer Rick Shera says it's all well and good the sabre rattling and wringing of hands by the Justice Minister and the Privacy Commissioner, but if Google or any other provider is unwilling to accept responsibility then they should feel the full weight of the law through the courts.

And they're still at it, the name of the alleged killer is still posted all over the site.

At least in the British Daily Telegraph's headline about the alleged murder on Google his name's there but access to the story's denied which is a bit like closing the stable door after the horse has scarpered.


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