media, Politics and Grassroots, Tech

Shut up, I have freedom of speech

Don’t want to do business with WikiLeaks?  You might find your website getting hacked, like MasterCard or Paypal.  (And you might also get hacked if you represent women who are making accusations of rape, depending on whom they accused.)  Participants in what has been dubbed “Operation Payback” seem just organized enough to take some time off from complaining about not being able to get unlimited movies and music for free online to wreak a little bit of havoc.

The hackers’ concerns are echoed by DataCell, a company that helps WikiLeaks process payments.  DataCell is getting ready to sue Visa and MasterCard to force them to work with WikiLeaks, according to CEO Andreas Fink:

We strongly believe a world class company such as Visa should not get involved by politics and just simply do their business where they are good at. Transferring money. They have no problem transferring money for other businesses such as gambling sites, pornography services and the like so why a donation to a Website which is holding up for human rights should be morally any worse than that is outside of my understanding.

Visa is hurting Wikileaks and DataCell ehf in high figures. Putting all payments on hold for 7 days or more is one thing but rejecting all further attempts to donate is making the donations impossible. This does clearly create massive financial losses to Wikileaks which seems to be the only purpose of this suspension. This is not about the brand of Visa, this is about politics and Visa should not be involved in this.

To summarize what Fink appears to be driving in his sputtered sentence fragments: Visa should not be involved in politics, therefore Fink will use a political entity (the judicial system) to force them to do business with a political organization (WikiLeaks).  Fink and Operation Payback are each quick to defend WikiLeaks’s right to publish unpopular speech, but intolerant of other groups’ choices to simply take their business elsewhere.

The whole mess is a dress rehearsal for the coming clash on American internet regulations like net neutrality. If a site (like WikiLeaks) depends on other companies (like ISPs, hosting companies, and donation platforms) for their survival, will those companies be forced by law to support WikiLeaks and their mission?

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