by Leigh Beadon – Thu, Jul 12th 2012
It’s been about a year since Wikileaks filed its complaint against Visa, Mastercard and Paypal for cutting off all payments to the site following the infamous leak of the State Department cables. Wikileaks saw this is a clear attempt to censor the site using an economic workaround, and a violation of their contract—and now at least one court has agreed. Today Wikileaks announced a significant victory in the case against Visa, with the court giving them two weeks to start processing payments again:
In a case against Valitor, formerly VISA Iceland, Reykjavík District Court just ruled the company had violated contract laws by blocking credit card donations to Wikileaks. After WikiLeaks’ publications revealing U.S. war crimes and statecraft in 2010, U.S. financial institutions, including VISA, MasterCard, Bank of America, erected a banking blockade against WikiLeaks wholly outside of any judicial or administrative process. The blockade stripped away over 95% of donations from supporters of WikiLeaks, costing the organization in excess of USD 20M.
The court ruled that the donation gateway should be reopened within 14 days otherwise Valitor will be penalized with a fine of 800 000 ISK daily. WikiLeaks is persuing several actions against the blockade and a European Commission preliminary investigation into the blockade was started last July. A Commission decision on whether to pursue the financial services companies involved in the blockade is expected before the end of August.
This is a big win for Wikileaks and a bad sign for the other companies complicit in the payment blockade. Whatever you may think of Wikileaks, cutting off their access to donations at the payment-processing level is a highly questionable shortcut—and hopefully the courts recognize this in the cases against other payment providers.