Thursday 9 December 2010

PayPal Executive Admits to Yielding to US State Department Pressure

According to a British newspaper, the Daily Mail:
Computer hackers have sent one of the world’s biggest credit card companies into meltdown in revenge for cutting off payments to the WikiLeaks website. The attack was launched by a shadowy international group called ‘Anonymous’ which said MasterCard had been targeted for freezing the account of the whistleblowing site. The devastating blow to MasterCard, as well as the online payment network PayPal and a Swiss bank, came on one of the busiest online shopping days of the year. There were reports this morning that the attacks had gone on through the night. Yesterday, a six-hour stoppage is thought to have affected hundreds of thousands of shoppers worldwide and highlights how vulnerable the world’s computer systems are to attack. It is thought just a few dozen ‘hacktivists’ launched the electronic onslaught, which was taken up by other supporters. [...] Yesterday a spokesman for Anonymous, calling himself ‘Coldblood’, a 22-year-old based in London, said: ‘Websites that are bowing down to government pressure have become targets. 'As an organisation we have always taken a strong stance on censorship and freedom of expression on the internet and come out against those who seek to destroy it by any means. ‘We feel that WikiLeaks has become more than just about leaking of documents, it has become a war ground, the people versus the government.
So a bit like the ACCG in the US and Candice Jarman and her supporters in the UK. More interestingly,
A PayPal executive admitted the firm stopped processing WikileLeaks' payments after being pressured by the US State Department.
the reason he gave was that "State Dept told us these were illegal activities [...] the State Department branded WikiLeaks illegal on November 27". Illegal where? Illegal where precisely? Even if it is, is the dissemination (or reading) of every single piece of information on the Wikileaks pages "illegal", or just some of it?

It seems to me that here we have a very clear parallel to the international market in antiquities, if the US government was to unilaterally declare that the internet-based trading of illicit antiquities was "illegal" in the same way as the acephalous Wikileaks distributed by mirror servers all over the free world, would PayPal shut down the accounts of international dealers and collectors involved in it using precisely the same clause in its user agreement as the one they cited in shutting down the Wikileaks account? Would they do the same with MasterCard and Swiss Bank? It seems to me that in their battle with what its supporters perfectly justifiably see as free speech (if one uses the same definition as those used by the hate-mongering US supporters of "National Burn A Koran Day"), the State Department have just shown us a way to seriously restrict the trade in illicit antiquities.

Colin Fernandez and Laura Caroe, 'Now it's cyber war: Army of hackers target MasterCard and PayPal in revenge for them pulling the plug on WikiLeaks', Daily Mail 9th December 2010

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