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Visa, MasterCard blocking of WikiLeaks is a stunt

Much fanfare was made by payment house MasterCard about closing the WikiLeaks account last week, blocking their access to inbound funds. Not to be outdone, Visa followed suit, announcing they too would no longer handle payments to WikiLeaks. Both actions were PR stunts. Payments certainly continue to flow to WikiLeaks over both MC and Visa. The nature of these companies is that they provide the information hub for the processing of payments, but banks, retail banks like Wells Fargo and CitiBank, with additional services from a unit of the Federal Reserve Bank called the Automated Clearing House, actually move the money and settle transactions. Add to the mix so-called payment gateways, which aggregate card processing for smaller commercial accounts (like WikiLeaks) and you get an environment where a MasterCard can announce that they are stopping service to WikiLeaks-- and they definitely can blacklist an account with the name WikiLeaks --but that claim in itself is inherently leaky.

WikiLeaks most certainly has other business names with which it registers itself with payments gateways.  Visa/MasterCard process the transactions from these gateways, who are trusted partners, and never know, and don't want to know, who the actual customers are.  That is how online casinos, porn sites with underage models, unprescribed prescription drug services and other shadow operations continue to accept credit cards unabated.  Once in a while an announcement is made by one of the card processors about "shutting down a major..." you name it, Russian spam-scam, whatever, but it is always by definition a PR stunt.

Which is good news for WikiLeaks.

 

Comments

Fascinating to watch

Twitter and Facebook wrestle with this. Twitter sometimes has trouble staying online just with day-to-day business. I suspect it's pretty vulnerable to a DOS attack.

Facebook is wise to hedge its bets and let supporter pages remain. Twitter's walking a tightrope, too.

The first real cyberwar. We live in interesting times.

Angie

Be kinder than necessary, for everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle.

PayPal on the other hand is a different story

PayPal's embargo of WikiLeaks' account has actual teeth. It is much harder to legitimately shield identity (legally) from PayPal, so if they say they are shutting you down, consider it real.

Gordon J. Whiting Executive Producer LIVE FROM THE LEFT COAST with Angie Coiro

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