In America, we hold some truths to be self-evident: our news should report facts, and our personal communications should be private. Given the scandal rocking Britain over Rupert Murdoch’s tabloid paper News of the World and his huge influence over US media, both of these notions could be in jeopardy.
James Murdoch announced today that amidst a growing furor, News of the World will cease publication on Sunday. Far from resolving the problem, this radical step raises the question of just how deep this scandal goes. The Murdoch-owned paper The Sun has faced similar allegations of phone hacking this year, and no investigation has yet been conducted to see if similar abuses occurred at Murdoch-owned papers here in the United States.
For years now, Murdoch’s News of the World has been trying to tamp down the widening scandal involving its reporters who violated the privacy of celebrities, politicians and members of the royal family by hacking into their voicemails in search of juicy stories.
The scandal finally boiled over this week, as the Guardian reported that they had sunk much lower: after 13-year-old Milly Dowler was abducted on her way home from school in 2002, News of the World hacked into her phone, listened to her voicemails and deleted several messages—apparently to free more space for Milly’s friends and family to leave new messages the paper could listen in on.
This led both the police and Milly’s family to believe Milly was still alive and clearing her messages, which not only impeded the authorities’ search for her abductor but also gave Milly’s parents false hope that their daughter was still alive and would come home safely. Her remains were found six months later.
These revelations have rocked Britain. Prime Minister David Cameron called them “shocking.” Labour party leader Ed Miliband has called for Rebekah Brooks, former News of the World editor and now one of Murdoch’s top lieutenants, to resign.