In a major blow to WikiLeaks, Visa, MasterCard and PayPal have all begun choking off donations to the controversial whistleblower site. On Friday, PayPal led the charge, announcing on its blog its refusal to support any "activities that encourage, promote, facilitate or instruct others to engage in illegal activity." A MasterCard spokesperson made a similar statement Monday, saying the company's "rules prohibit customers from directly or indirectly engaging in or facilitating any action that is illegal." Today, Visa followed suit announcing its suspension of donations to WikiLeaks while it conducts an investigation.
The companies' decision have already drawn stern criticism, including cyber attacks targeted at PayPal. Here's what WikiLeaks defenders are saying in the blogosphere:
Hey, Visa, Mastercard, Paypal: It's MY money. How DARE you tell me where I can and can't spend it?
- Visa and MasterCard Were Feeling the Heat, writes Andy Greenberg at Forbes:
The two firms no doubt felt that pressure from both sides of the political aisle, as Attorney General Eric Holder has promised to explore all legal options against WikiLeaks and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and others have branded him a “terrorist.” The two credit card firms may have felt the heat from their banking partners as well, given that Assange has promised to reveal tens of thousands of documents from a major U.S. bank in early 2011.
- These Companies Should Be Boycotted, writes Paul Hales at the UK-based website, Thinq. He calls MasterCard the "latest organization to kowtow to Yankee imperialist powers," complaining that Mastercard was one of the few ways in which "interested" people could support Wikileaks. Offering a tongue-in-cheek solution, Hales writes, "you can send us an envelope stuffed with cash and we'll wander down the road and stick it through the bars of Mr Assange's cell."
- MasterCard, PayPal Are Sending the Wrong Message, writes Evan Hansen at Wired: "As a society, we should embrace the site as an expression of the
fundamental freedom that is at the core of our Bill of Rights, not react
like Chinese corporations that are happy to censor information on
behalf of their government to curry favor."
- This Badly Damages Our Reputation, writes new media guru Clay Shirky on his blog:
The leaders of Myanmar and Belarus, or Thailand and Russia, can now rightly say to us "You went after Wikileaks' domain name, their hosting provider, and even denied your citizens the ability to register protest through donations, all without a warrant and all targeting overseas entities, simply because you decided you don't like the site. If that's the way governments get to behave, we can live with that."