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Technology Google suspends Trends e-mails in New Zealand after murder suspect’s name released

Google has suspended an e-mail alerting system in New Zealand after criticism by the government for publishing suppressed details of a murder case, the company said on Friday.

The suspension of the service comes as the Alphabet Inc.-owned giant and its peers, such as Facebook Inc. and Twitter Inc., as well as governments around the world, wrestle with the question of responsibility for the content published on the platforms.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern expressed disappointment about Google’s failure to abide by a court order suppressing the name of a man accused of killing 22-year-old British backpacker Grace Millane.

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The murder last year shocked New Zealand, where serious crimes are relatively rare. The name of a man accused of the killing has been suppressed by a court, but it appeared in Google Trends e-mails listing top search terms in New Zealand.

“We understand the sensitivity around this issue and we have suspended Google Trends e-mails about searches trending in New Zealand,” a Google spokeswoman said in an e-mail.

The company had earlier written to New Zealand Justice Minister Andrew Little advising him of the decision after Mr. Little on Wednesday urged the company not to be “evil” and to “do the right thing” to prevent more breaches.

“Don’t be evil” was a company motto.

The company said it respected New Zealand law and understood the sensitivity of the issue.

“This … provides even further assurance against any recurrence,” Ross Young, Google’s government affairs and public policy manager, said in the letter to Little, whose office released the letter.

Ms. Millane, who was travelling after finishing university, went missing in Auckland, New Zealand’s largest city, on Dec. 1.

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Police found her body in a bush area just a few metres from a scenic drive in Auckland’s Waitakere Ranges.

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