Wikileaks has drawn a storm of criticism from governments (particularly the U.S. government) and corporations around the world for publishing classified information about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, corporate malfeasance, and other sensitive topics—and, as a result, found itself cut off from its major sources of funding as institutions like MasterCard, Visa, PayPal, Western Union, and Bank of America refused to handle payments for the organization. Now, that financial “blockade” is taking its toll: Wikileaks has temporarily suspended publishing new information to work on bringing in money, and founder Julian Assange says the organization could shut down by the end of the year.
“These politicized companies believe they have the right to stop you voting with your wallet,” Wikileaks founder Julian Assange said in a video statement. “We have decided to throw all our efforts into fighting these corrupt financial institutions.”
Assange says WikiLeaks’ network is stronger than ever and has endured cyberattacks it believes are fueled by governments and corporations eager to suppress the thousands of “revelations” Wikileaks has ready to go. But operating Wikileaks takes effort and money: Wikileaks breaks out its expenses as $300,000 each for security and campaigns, $400,000 for productions, $500,000 each for for technical information, publications research, and staff salaries…and $1.2 million in legal expenses.
Many U.S.-based financial service companies—and tech firms like Amazon—stopped doing business with Wikileaks when it published some quarter million U.S. State Department diplomatic cables last year. According to Wikileaks, the move managed to cut off some 95 percent of its funding. Wikileaks has struggled to open up alternative methods of collecting donations through payment processors in Iceland and elsewhere, but has met with limited success. Wikileaks has been feeling the pressure of its reduced income: last month Assange railed against publisher Canongate over a book deal, noting that his financial situation prevented him from taking action against them.
Assange and Wikileaks still face legal pressure in Europe and the United States. The U.S. Justice Department has been working on a case against Assange and Wikileaks regarding the publication of diplomatic materials, and Assange is still facing possible extradition to Sweden to face sex crime allegations. A decision on his extradition is expected in a few weeks.