Visa and Mastercard Sued for Part in WikiLeaks Bank Blockade
American attorneys for the Icelandic hosting provider used by WikiLeaks, DataCell, have filed a suit against credit card giants MasterCard and Visa in United States District Court. The suit claims that Visa and Mastercard participated in a coordinated attempt to cut off funding to WikiLeaks. Visa and Mastercard’s combined monopoly on the international payments card network at the time was very effective in hurting WikiLeaks; however, the deliberate attack only fueled the fire. DataCell is being represented by US law firm Harvey and Binnall.
WikiLeaks Bank Blockade Retribution
At the time, WikiLeaks was leaking a set of State Department cables between the US State Department and its embassies overseas that had far-reaching consequences. The leaked information particularly angered Representatives Peter King and Joseph Lieberman, the former of which is the current chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security. DataCell’s lawyers allege:
To punish Sunshine Press (WikiLeaks) and try to put it out of business as retribution for disclosure of the State Department cables, Lieberman and King instructed their respective staffs to contact defendant VISA and defendant MasterCard and demand that they block individuals from donating money to Sunshine Press.
DataCell, who would have received 5% of all donated funds, is hoping to be awarded over $5 million by a federal judge. The lawyers allege that Visa and Mastercard violated state and federal anti-trust statutes, civil conspiracy, and a specific federal law that prohibits “tortious interference with business expectancies and contract.” Earlier last year, DataCell won an Icelandic case in Iceland’s Supreme Court against Valitor, a local card payment processor that had also wrongfully strangled WikiLeaks’ donation flow. After that victory, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said:
This is a victory against the rise of economic censorship to crack down against journalists and publishers. We thank the Icelandic people for showing that they will not be bullied by powerful Washington-backed financial services companies like Visa. And we send out a warning to the other companies involved in this blockade: You’re next.
Images from Shutterstock and Wikimedia.