Justice Minister Andrew Little says global giant Google is "flipping the bird" at New Zealand laws by breaking suppression orders in the Grace Millane murder case and then doing nothing about it.

A 27-year-old Auckland man with name suppression has been charged with murdering Millane, and last December, Google appeared to break the suppression order by emailing the accused's name to anyone signed up to its "what's trending in New Zealand" email.

Little had asked Google for an explanation when he met Google executives at the Beehive in December.

Google executives also gave Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern assurances that the matter would be looked at when they met in Europe in January, and Ministry of Justice officials followed up with Google in March and again this week.


Today Little said Google had contacted him to say that there was no plan to change anything.

Justice Minister Andrew Little says Google's lack of action to prevent the breaking of suppression orders is the equivalent of
Justice Minister Andrew Little says Google's lack of action to prevent the breaking of suppression orders is the equivalent of "flipping the bid" at New Zealand laws. Photo / Stuart Munro

He released an email from Google's NZ government affairs manager Ross Young that said: "We have looked at our systems and it appears that last year's situation was relatively unique as it was a high-profile case, involving a person from overseas, which was extensively reported by overseas media."

The email added that Google respected New Zealand law and was engaging with local stakeholders.

Little said that Google's response was the equivalent of "flipping the bird".

"Google's contempt for New Zealand law, and for Grace Millane's family is unacceptable, and I will now be considering my options.

"In the end, Google is effectively acting as a publisher and publishing material that is under suppression orders in New Zealand, and they cannot and should not be allowed to get away with that."

He said even though Google may technically publish the material in other jurisdictions, it did so knowing there was a high chance that the information would be available in New Zealand.

"It is wrong if we want to preserve fair trial rights for defendants and ultimately have a trial where the victims know there is a fair chance to see justice done. This is what we are trying to protect."


After the December meeting with Little, Young told media that Google received a notification about the name suppression four days after interim suppression was granted.

Asked why it had taken so long, Young said: "I don't know."

He added: "We respect New Zealand law and we will respond to court orders when we get them. As you'll appreciate, there are trillions of web pages, dynamic and active, on the internet at the moment."

Young cut short the media interview and walked away, ignoring further questions from media.

Little has previously said that the integrity of fair trial rights cannot be left to "algorithms and machines".

"This might be the way of the world and modern technology, but the reality is that we cannot surrender the effective administration of justice to algorithms and machines and say, 'Well, that's it, it's all over for fair trial rights.'

"We cannot allow that to happen."

He has also chastised British media for naming the accused.