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PayPal pulls the plug on WikiLeaks

By JUERGEN BAETZ
December 4, 2010

(AP Photo)

WikiLeaks has lost a major source of revenue after the online payment service provider PayPal cut off its account used to collect donations, saying the website is engaged in illegal activity.

The announcement also came as WikiLeaks is struggling to keep its website accessible after service providers such as Amazon dropped contracts, and governments and hackers continued to hound the organization.

The weekend move by PayPal came as WikiLeaks’ release of hundreds of thousands of United States diplomatic cables brought commercial organizations on the Internet that have business ties with the organization under more scrutiny.

WikiLeaks also is under legal pressure in several countries, including the U.S., and a former colleague of founder Julian Assange has said he will launch of a competing platform.

Donating money to WikiLeaks via PayPal was not possible anymore on Saturday, generating an error message saying: “This recipient is currently unable to receive money.”

PayPal said in a blog posting that cutting off WikiLeaks’ account was prompted by a violation of the service provider’s policy, “which states that our payment service cannot be used for any activities that encourage, promote, facilitate or instruct others to engage in illegal activity.”

The short notice was dated Friday, and a spokeswoman for PayPal Germany declined on Saturday to elaborate and referred to the official blog posting.

WikiLeaks confirmed the latest trouble in its Twitter account, saying: “PayPal bans WikiLeaks after U.S. government pressure.”

WikiLeaks has embarrassed Washington and foreign leaders by releasing a trove of brutally frank U.S. diplomatic cables.

PayPal, a subsidiary of U.S.-based online marketplace operator EBay Inc., offers online payment services that are one of several ways WikiLeaks collects donations — and until now was probably the most secure and convenient way to support the organization.

The other options listed on WikiLeaks’ website are through mail to an Australian post office box, through bank transfers to accounts in Switzerland, Germany or Iceland, as well as through one “credit card processing partner” in Switzerland.

WikiLeaks’ PayPal account redirects users to a German foundation which provides the organization with the money. The Wau Holland Foundation, named after a German hacker, confirmed Saturday in a Twitter message that its PayPal account had been taken down because of the “financial support to WikiLeaks.”

The foundation’s president, Winfried Motzkus, earlier this week was quoted by the local newspaper Neue Westfaelische in his hometown of Bielefeld as saying that Wau Holland has collected euro750,000 ($1 million) for WikiLeaks, covering the organization’s expenses.

WikiLeaks’ recent releases seem to have been a boon for the foundation, which had previously described itself as the organization’s main financial backer.

On its website, the foundation said “the huge and in this form unique amount of donations has caused the delay of issuing contribution receipts” — which allow Germans to deduct donations from their taxes.

Messages left for the foundation and for Motzkus were not immediately answered.

While WikiLeaks vows to make the world a more transparent place, very little is known about its day-to-day functioning. It has no headquarters, few if any paid staff and its finances remain opaque.

Wau Holland’s vice president, Hendrik Heye Fulda, last month told the German daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung that WikiLeaks operates on a tight annual budget of about $200,000. Fulda could not be reached for comment Saturday.

Meanwhile, Daniel Domscheit-Berg, a former WikiLeaks’ spokesman, has announced plans to launch a new and more transparent platform on his own, German news magazine Focus reported.

It will provide the technical infrastructure for anonymous postings and allow informants to choose themselves how and by whom to publish the information, Focus quoted Domscheit-Berg as saying. The 32-year-old Domscheit-Berg, who also has used the name Daniel Schmitt, said he will soon publish a book about his time with Assange at the website.

On Friday, WikiLeaks was forced to move from one website to another as governments and hackers hounded the organization, trying to deprive it of a direct line to the public.

EveryDNS, a company based in Manchester, New Hampshire, stopped directing traffic to the website wikileaks.org late Thursday, saying cyber attacks threatened the rest of its network.

But while wikileaks.org remained unreachable Saturday, it has found new homes. Its German website wikileaks.de was reachable Saturday, and so was its Swiss domain.

The Swiss address directs traffic to servers in France, where political pressure quickly mounted with Industry Minister Eric Besson on Friday, saying it was unacceptable to host a site that “violates the secret of diplomatic relations.”

The web hosting company OVH confirmed that it had been hosting WikiLeaks since early Thursday, after a client asked for a “dedicated server with … protection against attacks,” adding it was now up to the courts to decide on the legality of hosting the site on French soil.

French newspaper Le Monde — which was among the publications that were granted full access to the diplomatic cables beforehand — said in one of its online articles Saturday it could not provide links to the relevant cables “as a result of the computer attacks WikiLeaks has suffered and the refusal of some Internet hosts and countries to take in the site.”

Media freedom watchdog Reporters Without Borders on Saturday condemned the personal attacks on Assange and “the blocking, cyber-attacks and political pressure” in what it called the first “attempt at the international community level to censor a website dedicated to the principle of transparency.”

WikiLeaks has been brought down numerous times this week by what appear to be denial-of-service attacks. In a typical such attack, remote computers commandeered by rogue programs bombard a website with so many data packets that it becomes overwhelmed and unavailable to visitors. Pinpointing the culprits is difficult. The attacks are relatively easy to mount and can be performed by amateurs.

The attacks started Sunday, just before WikiLeaks released the diplomatic cables. To deal with the flood of traffic, WikiLeaks moved to Amazon.com’s Web hosting facility.

But Amazon booted WikiLeaks from the site on Wednesday after U.S. congressional staffers started asking the company about its relationship to WikiLeaks.

The U.S. is currently conducting a criminal investigation into WikiLeaks’ release of the diplomatic cables.

___

Jamey Keaten in Paris contributed to this report. .

Copyright © 2010 The Associated Press

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8 Responses to PayPal pulls the plug on WikiLeaks

  1. Carl Nemo

    December 4, 2010 at 6:39 pm

    As I’ve written in other articles concerning this Wikileaks debacle; it’s amazing to see how the globalist, shadowy powers that be are turning on this one individual because he darest disclose their evil shenanigans relative to the peoples of the earth. So too in time they will turn on us all, shutting us down financially if we don’t play ball with their psychologically usurious paradigm.

    *****

    And he causes all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hand or on their foreheads, and that no one may buy or sell [or espouse contrary thoughts] except one who has the mark or the name of the beast [Paypal account anyone?] , or the number of his name. here is wisdom. Let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man: His number is 666.” …Revelation 13:16-18 …My brackets for ‘value added’ impact.

    *****

    I’ve supplied this passage because so too our ideas will be censored and controlled in the future. Get too vocal, don’t play ball and these evil oligarchical mattoids will have a system in place that will shut any individual on planet earth down no different than Julian Assange of Wikileaks relative to PayPal. Btw, a tip…Paypal is not your pal! They are notorious for working with “the man” in terms of seizing money in accounts and ratting out sellers of anything that will justify them doing so.

    Carl Nemo **==

    • woody188

      December 6, 2010 at 11:47 pm

      Actually, IPv6 might be the actual mark of the beast. It’s version 6, it’s hexadecimal (base 16), and it’s 64-bit. (666) And if you don’t have an IP address in the future, you might not be able to buy or sell. Nearly all electronics made today support this addressing schema. Your right hand could refer to your cellphone, and upon your forehead could be reference to future display devices that are worn like headbands.

      Mind you I’m not promoting this concept, as I don’t really take the Bible literally. But IPv6 has all the necessary parts, and the Beast has been said to be Main Core, or perhaps an AI infused future version of Main Core that tracks and catalogs all human activity.

  2. Keith

    December 5, 2010 at 7:58 am

    Whadda you bet that PayPal was threatened by the IRS goon squad to shut off their support for Wikileaks?

  3. Paul

    December 5, 2010 at 8:44 am

    “which states that our payment service cannot be used for any activities that encourage, promote, facilitate or instruct others to engage in illegal activity.”

    Greenpeace & PETA have Paypal donation accounts. They’ve never encouraged illegal acts?

    • Carl Nemo

      December 5, 2010 at 12:29 pm

      “Greenpeace & PETA have Paypal donation accounts. They’ve never encouraged illegal acts?” …extract from post

      I’m assuming you are being facetious with this comment. Both these orgs have engaged in physical acts of interdiction and interruption on the high seas and on land relative to their respective missions for which I’m in accord relative to whaling, our forests, protecting animals etc.

      Julian Assange has not engaged in illegal acts other than disclosing information that was passed on to him. Allegedly an enlisted man did so and he will surely be held accountable for releasing such material to WikiLeaks. Our nation has no “Official Secrets Act” that encompasses all our citizens as in Britain which holds everyone accountable for disclosing such, not just members of the government. If the government cannot secure their secrets properly then its not up to the citizens to secure such unless they care to do so. Assange is being targeted because so much of their slimeball dealings and assessments of foreign leaders etc. have come to light. Our government has become so corrupt and citizen unfriendly that simple words can describe such.

      Carl Nemo **==

  4. Keith

    December 5, 2010 at 11:39 am

    Perhaps our country should have heeded the words of one of our country’s most respected Founding Fathers…Thomas Jefferson…. when he said:

    “I am for free commerce with all nations, political connection with none, and little or no diplomatic establishment. And I am not for linking ourselves by new treaties with the quarrels of Europe, entering that field of slaughter to preserve their balance, or joining in the confederacy of Kings to war against the principles of liberty.”

    If we were to now substitute “the Muslim world” for “Europe” and the “Government of Israel” for “Kings” in his quote, my hunch is that all this Wikileaks nonsense wouldn’t even be on the radar.

  5. Pondering It All

    December 6, 2010 at 9:06 pm

    Wikileaks functions more like a newspaper or similar media outlet, not a spy or criminal organization. It was a crime for the army intel specialist to make copies of these documents, but we have plenty of legal precidents for not prosecuting US newspapers that publish such documents.

    Assange is not even a US citizen, so it is silly to talk about treason: He owes no loyalty to the US! Would the US try to prosecute an employee of another government who received these documents? Not a chance, unless that employee was operating within the US and was in on the plan to steal them.

    BTW: I just read that over 500 Wikileaks mirror sites are up and running, all over the world. The US needs to face the fact that it can’t stop information it doesn’t like. The internet belongs to the whole world now.

    • Carl Nemo

      December 6, 2010 at 9:25 pm

      Thanks Pondering It All for your spot-on analysis.

      “The US needs to face the fact that it can’t stop information it doesn’t like.” …extract from post

      Unfortunately our Congress along with ever-scheming media and communications industry moguls are trying to implement ways for the government to control and censor our internet, no differently than the Chinese do at this time. Crimpols hate the bright light of discovery shined down into the labrynthine ratholes in which they reside such as from this WikiLeaks disclosure/exposure.

      http://afteramerica.wordpress.com/2010/11/21/obama-administration-attempts-to-get-power-to-censor-the-internet-but-is-stopped-by-democrat-senator-for-now/

      Allegedly Senator Ron Wyden, Dem-Oregon was instrumental in getting a “stay” against this egregious move to censor the net. Our government is constantly scheming ways to grind their jackboots on our collective necks.

      Carl Nemo **==