WikiLeaks has been forced to shut down its secret-divulging operations until it can raise cash, the organization announced today.
“We are forced to temporarily suspend publishing whilst we secure our economic survival,” the group said in a statement. “For almost a year we have been fighting an unlawful financial blockade. We cannot allow giant U.S. finance companies to decide how the whole world votes with its pocket. Our battles are costly.”
On a special “Donate” page, WikiLeaks argues that Visa, MasterCard, PayPal, Western Union, and Bank of America have “tried to economically strangle” the organization by blocking over 95 percent of its donations, or “tens of millions of dollars.”
Soon after it cropped up on the Internet, WikiLeaks become a lightning rod of controversy. The group, which has released wartime images, U.S. State Department cables, and much more, has been called heroic by those who believe it reveals information that governments around the world try to keep secret. Others, however, including many governments, believe WikiLeaks is a dangerous organization that threatens the security of both the countries it targets and their people.
The organization’s founder, Julian Assange, continues to insist that WikiLeaks is vital to holding governments and corporate power accountable. But Assange is in some legal trouble in Europe where he is facing sexual assault charges. Assange, who says he is completely innocent, could be extradited to Sweden to face those charges within the next few weeks. He might also face legal trouble in the U.S. over his WikiLeaks activities.
Financial troubles have long been an issue for WikiLeaks, which relies entirely upon public donations to survive. They grew especially acute last year when several banks froze its accounts after the organization released State Department cables on the Internet. Last December, PayPal said in a statement that it decided to block WikiLeaks because it violated the company’s Acceptable Use Policy:
“PayPal has permanently restricted the account used by WikiLeaks due to a violation of the PayPal Acceptable Use 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 company wrote on its blog last year. “We’ve notified the account holder of this action.”
WikiLeaks says that the financial blockade is “entirely political.”
According to WikiLeaks, it pays $5,000 for 20 “secure phones to stay anonymous” and its legal cases cost $1 million. Server costs in over 40 countries set the organization back $200,000. WikiLeaks has also faced an “added cost” of $500,000 due to Julian Assange’s house arrest.
To help supporters donate, WikiLeaks has listed several ways to get through the blockade on its site, including donating through peer-to-peer digital currency service Bitcoin and sending money transfers through MoneyGram. Donors can also cash and checks to various locations around the world.