Credit card companies' WikiLeaks block just fine, EU says

Visa, MasterCard, and American Express did not violate any regulations by blocking donations to WikiLeaks.

Credit card companies that blocked WikiLeaks a couple of years ago didn't do anything wrong, the European Union's European Commission said today.

Last year, donation collection gateway DataCell complained to the commission that it was unfair for MasterCard Europe, Visa Europe, and American Express to have blocked donations to WikiLeaks. DataCell provided payment gateway services to WikiLeaks, accepting donations for the controversial organization. It was able to facilitate those transactions by operating its datacenter in Iceland -- away from legal prying eyes.

In its complaint, which it filed in July 2011, DataCell said that the credit card companies that blocked WikiLeaks donations in December 2010 violated "competition rules of the European Community."

Speaking to Reuters in an interview published today, a commission spokesperson said that the DataCell "complaint does not merit further investigation because it is unlikely that any infringement of EU competition rules could be established." The spokesperson said that the decision was not final and the commission would give DataCell another chance to make its case.

The controversial WikiLeaks was immersed in a financial struggle with credit card companies in 2010 after the organization released a trove of U.S. State Department cables on the Internet. A financial blockade soon erupted, leaving WikiLeaks with precious few opportunities to raise cash. The organization relies on supporters to maintain its operation.

It wasn't until July of this year that WikiLeaks was finally able to accept credit card donations. The "payment gateway" was provided by French credit card system Carte Bleue, which works globally with the Visa/MasterCard system and sidesteps typical blockades by funneling cash through its own service.

WikiLeaks responded to the European Commission's decision today by releasing documents it claims "show that hard-right U.S. politicians were directly behind the extrajudicial banking blockade against WikiLeaks."

Here's what WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange had to say about the apparent leak:

There is no sovereignty without economic sovereignty. It is concerning that hard-right elements in the United States have been able to pressure VISA and MasterCard, who together hold monopoly over the European market, into introducing a blockade that the U.S. Treasury has rightly rejected. These unaccountable elements are directly interfering in the political and economic freedoms of EU consumers and are setting a precedent for political censorship of the world's media.

Looking ahead, WikiLeaks says that it will continue to fight the "blockade."

 

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