Last week, WikiLeaks was evicted from Amazon cloud-based servers, reportedly under pressure from US politicians. A couple days later, PayPal followed suit – effectively depriving WikiLeaks of a flood of micro-donations from supporters around the globe. Now reps for MasterCard and Visa have said the companies will halt payments to WikiLeaks until a full investigation into the practices of the site has been completed.
In an interview with the BBC, a Visa Europe spokesperson said the investigation would determine whether the nature of WikiLeaks business "contravenes Visa operating rules." Meanwhile, MasterCard said in a statement that it was "in the process of working to suspend the acceptance of MasterCard cards on Wikileaks until the situation is resolved."
The snub from Visa and MasterCard could be incredibly costly for WikiLeaks, which relies on credit card donations to keep its site up and running. In recent days, in response to a call to arms from WikiLeaks reps, hundreds of mirror sites have sprung up around the globe, effectively preventing WikiLeaks from being snuffed out for good. But without a steady stream of income, it will be difficult for the organization to continue collecting and distributing information.
Many journalists and commentators have framed the eroding support for WikiLeaks as a free-speech issue, with corporations ditching WikiLeaks before the organization – or its founder – has been convicted of a crime. In a column on CNN.com, journalist Rebecca MacKinnon recently argued that in the "internet age, public discourse increasingly depends on digital spaces created, owned and operated by private companies."
Amazon, she continued, "sent a clear signal to its users: If you engage in controversial speech that some individual members of the U.S. government don't like – even if there is a strong case to be made that your speech is constitutionally protected – Amazon is going to dump you at the first sign of trouble."