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article imageOp-Ed: WikiLeaks using card's own campaign to fight back? Priceless

By Melissa Higgins     Jul 1, 2011 in World
Julian Assange, founder of WikiLeaks, responded to Mastercard's attempts to substantially reduce donations to the organization through the implementation of a financial blockade by delivering a powerful message in the form of a commercial.
An advertisement, playing upon Mastercard's own "Priceless" campaign, informs viewers of the recent struggles WikiLeaks has experienced when it comes to receiving funding for its operations. WikiLeaks is a non-profit media organization that provides information to the public and purports to raise awareness through publishing "original source material alongside our news stories so readers and historians alike can see evidence of the truth". WikiLeaks accepts submissions of secret and proprietary information and shares it in an effort to provide a much more dynamic perspective of world events.
Assange makes a guest appearance in the newly released advertisement outlining some of the consequences that have resulted from the creation of his ground-breaking and contentious online site. The commercial is effective in demonstrating the cost associated with providing the world with information. For example, some of the expenses described include the price of phones to maintain anonymity, legal costs relating to cases in five different countries, upkeep of servers in more than 40 countries, and the number of donations lost due to the financial blockage. The inevitable and unanswerable question WikiLeaks asks in its response to political and economic coercion to cease and desist is a difficult one: What does it cost to change the world?
The blockade began six months ago and now involves five prominent financial institutions: MasterCard, VISA, PayPal, Western Union, and Bank of America. The massive attack has managed to strip WikilLeaks of about 90% of its donations - money the organization relies on to operate effectively. The approximate amount of lost revenue is $15 million. There is no lawful justification for the financial attacks on WikiLeaks. In fact, the U.S. Secretary of the Treasury, Timothy Geithner, determined that this approach to impeding funding is as the WikiLeak's site described "entirely outside of any due process and rule of the law".
There appear to be a number of underlying motives relating to the formation of the blockade. In January of 2011, The Wall Street Journal reported that Bank of America followers and investors were concerned about WikiLeaks and its ability to potentially harm the large bank's reputation by releasing information leaked to the organization's site. Gottfried reported, "WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has suggested that the site has access to documents that could damage a large bank, and there has been speculation that BofA was the bank in question." The involvement of the five major financial institutions is an attempt to isolate Wikileaks from the global economic community. However, the blockade is unlawful in that WikiLeaks has not been convicted of a crime or of participating in specific criminal activity.
The blockade works by denying people and organizations the ability to donate money to WikiLeaks using any of the resources provided by the institutions involved. WikiLeaks explains that there are ways to get around the blockade. The site advises potential donors that "direct bank transfers that do not use the Bank of America network still work. We also accept Bitcoin donations or you can send a donation via postal mail."
The advertisement, displayed on the WikiLeaks site, concludes with the following: "Watching the world change as a result of your work? Priceless. There are some people who don't like change. For everyone else, there's WikiLeaks."
The irony of the both this situation and Assange's brave response is that this is yet another reminder that there is perhaps no price one can ever place on freedom or truth.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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