Yesterday WikiLeaks announced a workaround once again allowing them to process donations made in the form of credit card payments. As soon as Visa found out about said workaround, they promptly shut it down, once again blocking WikiLeaks from processing donations made via credit card.
WikiLeaks uses DataCell as their payment gateway. Quite a few months ago DataCell shut down payments to WikiLeaks via Visa and MasterCard at the card companies’ requests. Both Visa and MasterCards felt it violated their terms to allow users to make payments towards “illegal activity”.
DataCell has recently signed a deal with an Icelandic processor named Valitor, who allows Visa payments to WikiLeaks. Visa apparently wasn’t aware of Valitor’s stance on WikiLeaks payments and as such card payments were being processed even though Visa has a strong stance on the matter.
Icelandic lawyer for both WikiLeaks and DataCell, Sveinn Andri Sveinnson had this to say on the matter,
“When we signed this contract, it was clear to Valitor that this was for WikiLeaks donations, and they assented,” says Sveinnson. “Visa was saying that they hadn’t ended their financial blockade but people could see they could make payments. So it was very embarrassing for Visa and very hilarious.”
Visa issued a statement addressing the issue as well,
“An acquirer briefly accepted payments on a merchant site linked to WikiLeaks. As soon as this came to our attention, action was taken with the suspension of Visa payment acceptance to the site remaining in place.”
Forbes is reporting that as soon as Visa realized what was happening they immediately pressured Valitor to end their agreement with DataCell and WikiLeaks and to block donations made to the site via credit card. That means WikiLeaks is in the same situation today that they were on Wednesday, no donations can be made to the site using any major credit card.
So how much did WikiLeaks get in donations in the brief window that card payments could actually be processed? Andreas Fink, a DataCell executive, told Bloomberg contributions were in the “five-to-six digit figures.” That’s a lot of donations in a really short window of time.
Both WikiLeaks and DataCell have obviously been incredibly unhappy about card companies’ stances on payments to the website. A complaint against the card companies was set to be filed yesterday, but Sveinnson waited to file assuming the situation with Valitor was instead the card companies lifting their ban. Now that it is confirmed that the ban has not been lifted, the complaint will be filed. The complaint itself asserts that these major card companies are violating 101 and 102 of the E.U. treaty. Those specific articles deal with business competition and the illegality of creating anti-competitive groups.
Both Visa and MasterCard have stated that they feel donations to WikiLeaks violate their terms of service. MasterCard has actually attempted to explain it stating it does not allow, “customers from directly or indirectly engaging in or facilitating any action that is illegal.”
While the complaint doesn’t call out specific financial damages, WikiLeaks has said it estimates a loss of around $15 million from the credit card bans. If the website managed to generate five or six figures in the 24 hours the workaround was active, that amount might just be believable.