American supporters of WikiLeaks are planning to establish a foundation that could break a long-standing “banking blockade” effectively banning donations to the the whistle-blowing organization.
Indeed, WikiLeaks had little choice but to suspend most of its publishing operations in October 2011 after US senator Joe Lieberman demanded companies – such as Visa, MasterCard and PayPal – stop processing donations to the website.
Daniel Ellsberg and John Perry Barlow are at the forefront of the blockade busting initiative.
Neither men are strangers to controversy, as Ellsberg leaked the Pentagon Papers to the media way back in 1971, while Barlow, a former lyricist for the Grateful Dead, is the co-founder of the prominent Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF).
“The foundation will aim to support Wikieaks and others, like bloggers, who have been targeted by such blockades,” Barlow explained.
“We hope this will make a moral argument that will change these companies’ minds, but it could also be the basis of legal challenges.”
As The Guardian’s James Ball notes, a US-based foundation would likely be in a “stronger position” to challenge threats to the First Amendment, which ensures the right to free speech and press. However, Barlow warned that the power of organizations to stifle free speech in the private sector is growing exponentially.
“We now have organizations with the ability to stifle free expression with no bill of rights that applies to them – just terms of service,” he told The Guardian. “The EFF have investigated everything we can think of [against this], and all we can find is anti-trust law, and we’re not nearly rich enough for that kind of action.”
Meanwhile, WikiLeaks issued an official statement confirming that it has kicked off legal against various payment processing companies around the world.
“Five hundred days have passed since a cartel of the world’s largest financial players, Bank of America, Visa, MasterCard, PayPal and Western Union instituted a consolidated, extrajudicial financial blockade against WikiLeaks,” it read.
“The financial blockade was imposed at a point at which the public wished to express its support unequivocally through millions of dollars in small donations. The blockade cuts WikiLeaks off from its small donors, the vast majority of our donor base. The financial cartel has so far acted with impunity in an attempt to censor WikiLeaks and curtail our supporters’ economic rights.”