Following a Twitter campaign, Ford Motor Co. has pulled its advertising from the U.K.'s best-selling newspaper, Rupert Murdoch's News of the World, over allegations the paper hacked into the voicemail of a missing schoolgirl.
Mr. Murdoch's News International has been dealing for years with the fallout -- and multiple lawsuits -- from celebrities charging that News of the World reporters illegally listened to their cellphone messages, but the revelation this week that the newspaper tampered with a murdered girl's voicemail has outraged the British public.
A spokesman for Ford said, "Ford is a company which cares about the standards of behavior of its own people and those it deals with externally. We are awaiting an outcome from the News of the World investigation."
Two other major companies are considering whether to give in to public pressure to boycott the newspaper, which is the Sunday sibling of The Sun. A spokesperson for Halifax bank said the company is considering its options and energy company Npower issued a statement saying, "We note the concerns which have arisen on the back of fresh allegations of phone hacking against the News of the World. We are currently reviewing our options."
A Twitter campaign urging advertisers not to buy space in the News of the World is in full swing. A list of 17 of the paper's top advertisers is being circulated, with a suggestion that people tweet messages such as, "Dear [@advertiser] Do you think it ethical to stock a newspaper prepared to hack a murdered girl's phone?"
Advertisers targeted include Renault, Virgin Media, EasyJet, T-Mobile and Weight Watchers.
Ford said it will continue to advertise in other News International titles. The media group also owns The Times and Sunday Times newspapers. The News of the World is the U.K.'s biggest-circulation newspaper, selling 2,708,158 copies weekly in February, far ahead of the No. 2 Sunday paper, the Daily Mail's Mail on Sunday, with circulation of 1,924,589 copies.
It was revealed on July 4 that News of the World in 2002 hacked into the phone messages of missing schoolgirl Milly Dowler, who was later found dead. Representatives of the newspaper even deleted messages when her mailbox filled up, in order to make room for more messages to be left.
In doing so, they gave hope to the Dowler family that their daughter was still alive and managing her messages, and they also tampered with evidence in a murder investigation.
Rebekah Brooks, who is CEO of News International in the U.K., was editor of the News of the World at the time. She said in a statement today that she was "appalled and shocked" by the hacking allegations and added that it was "inconceivable that I knew or, worse, sanctioned these appalling allegations."
Ms. Brooks seems set on keeping her job, however. She also said in the statement, "I am determined to lead the company to ensure we do the right thing and resolve these serious issues."
Andy Coulson, who succeeded Ms. Brooks as editor of the News of the World, resigned from that role in 2007 when a series of celebrity phone-hacking scandals was revealed. He subsequently became communications director to Prime Minister David Cameron, but resigned from that job earlier this year when the same scandal erupted again.
Mr. Coulson still maintains he knew nothing of what his newspaper staffers were up to, even though he has resigned -- twice -- over the issue. Two men have already been imprisoned over the celebrity phone hacking, and News International has set aside $30 million to cover the costs of compensating the celebrities involved.
However, it's not the suffering of celebrities but the hacking of Milly Dowler's phone that has really outraged the British public.
Another campaign, using the slogan "No time to give Murdoch more power," is asking people to sign a petition to stop News International from taking over the part of satellite broadcaster Sky that it does not yet own. The U.K. government has approved the deal despite controversy over the concentration of media ownership, but there is speculation that the new revelations about the Murdoch empire may change the outcome.