For a few hours yesterday Icelandic hosting company DataCell was able to accept donations to WikiLeaks via the Web, and claims it was able to process thousands of donations to WikiLeaks. However, credit card operator Visa shut it down, and as of early morning (Iceland time) the donation system was no longer operating.
WikiLeaks publicized the availability of the payment processing gateway via it’s Twitter account, which has almost a million followers. DataCell indicated it was able to process payments through Visa, Mastercard, and American Express.
Late last year, Visa was subject to a distributed denial-of-service attack from WikiLeaks supporters angry that the company had stopped processing payments for the whistle-blowing Web site—credit card company Mastercard also stopped accepting payments directed to WikiLeaks.
Neither credit card company has been specific about why it has suspended payments to Wikileaks, indicating only that they were investigating the nature of WikiLeaks operation and were suspending services until the “situation” was resolved. WikiLeaks has been criticized—and is the subject of numerous Federal investigations—for disclosing classified U.S. government information and communiques. If WikiLeaks is charged under U.S. antiterrorism laws, credit card operators could potentially be subject to deep investigation or even criminal liability for enabling support to WikiLeaks. Credit card companies and other payment processors routinely reserve the right to deny service to any organization or individual where they believe the funds are being used to promote or facilitate illegal activity, or inform others how to do so.
To enable credit card donations to WikiLeaks, Iceland’s DataCell was able to sign on a new payment acquirer, Valitor, who was willing to process payments to WikiLeaks. However, once discovering Valitor was processing payments on behalf of WikiLeaks, Visa suspended payments. Previously, DataCell had been accepting payments to WikiLeaks via Icelandic provider Korta, and then through Danish provider Teller. However, in late 2010 DataCell claims Mastercard and Visa required Teller terminate its contract. DataCell has also confirmed that its latest provider, Valitor, has terminated its contract with DataCell.
DataCell has indicated it is planning to file a lawsuit in Iceland seeking compensation for the terminated contracts, and also that it plans to file a complaint with the European Commission alleging the credit card companies’ actions violate European competition regulations.