It’s difficult to decide the bullied and bullies in some cases and with the latest in the MasterCard – Visa – WikiLeaks brouhaha, the lines are most certainly blurred. It all began Julian Assange authorized his controversial website, WikiLeaks, to release 250,000 documents, classified in nature, regarding various diplomats around the world.
This happened in late 2010. Within weeks, both MasterCard and Visa discontinued their policy of allowing their card holders to contribute to the website. Assange was less than pleased because, according to his estimation, the website was losing close to $185,000 each day the credit card companies held their ground.
New Battle Lines
This year, the battle lines were clearly drawn with threats of lawsuits and demands. Its latest demand, issued late last month, gave the credit card giants the option of allowing payments through once again or face the wrath that would follow, courtesy of the European Commission.
But Assange didn’t stop there. He went on to say lawsuits would also be filed simultaneously in Denmark and Iceland. He, through his lawyers, said they would also be seeking the losses experienced due to the credit card companies’ decisions to not accept donations on behalf of WikiLeaks. For those who were numerically challenged, one of Assange’s lawyers explained,
There are three battlefields in this case. One in Brussels, one in Denmark and one in Iceland.
The charges that could have been made included abuse of dominant market positions that were in direct violation of Europe’s competitive rules. The paperwork explained that combined, Visa and MasterCard control 96% of the European credit card market.
They cannot behave as they want to. They have to have reasonable and logical motives and they haven’t.
Soon after the ban was instigated, both websites of Visa and MasterCard were hacked by “Anonymous”, who strikes against those against internet freedom and specifically, WikiLeaks.
For their parts, both credit card companies insisted the confidential information that the site gets compromises global security and each have said they don’t wish to further such a damaging agenda.
The problem many had with the decision of the companies was that it should not be left up to these companies to decide how they use their credit cards, especially when it’s a matter of ethics or personal choice versus the legalities of their choices. WikiLeaks is damaging and controversial, but at its core, it doesn’t compromise any laws. Naturally, and especially here in the United States, that in itself was quite controversial. No one wants to be told who to support.
The Next Chapter
Now, enter Phase II. Days following the latest threats of lawsuits, both MasterCard and Visa have ceded to those demands and have now once again began allowing their customers’ charges to go through. In fact, it’s been said even American Express card holders have a way to contribute should they so choose.
DataCell, which is the data hosting service provider for WikiLeaks issued a statement this week that it had observed an “alternative payment process” that it contracted with. It is now allowing Visa and MasterCard payments to be processed. Then, for the final jab, DataCell’s presser concludes:
We choose to interpret this as Visa and MasterCard have in fact given in to our demand that the payment services be reinstated.
Later, another attorney for WikiLeaks noted that Visa had filed a requested with the European Commission for additional time to “react to demands”. Svein Andri Sveinsson said,
Visa said they could come back to us Friday. If nothing changes, we will file the complaint after the weekend. We just have the courtesy to not file a complaint when they requested a delay.
By now, many are reaching for the Tylenol for the headaches this latest turn of events has caused. Should the credit card companies have steered clear of making that kind of across the board ruling and refused to allow people to contribute to a cause of their choice? And then, is the collective WikiLeaks brand a bit too aggressive in its assumptions that threats will always be the means justified? It’s a difficult predicament, to be sure. And then, of course, there are those who are rolling their eyes over the non-issue. After all, there are more than a few folks who are saying,
WikiLeaks is a has-been. Next breaking news email, please.