The Icelandic Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling and ordered Visa Inc. and MasterCard Worldwide partner Valitor to restart processing donations on behalf of WikiLeaks, the international, online, non-profit organization known for publishing secret government information from anonymous sources. Valitor had ceased processing WikiLeaks donations after WikiLeaks disclosed confidential U.S. government documents in November 2010.
The court gave Valitor, an acquirer formerly known as Visa Iceland and now a subsidiary of Visa, 15 days to comply with its ruling and begin processing WikiLeaks donations or face a fine of 800,000 kronur (roughly $6,829) per day plus legal costs. In July 2012, the Reykjav¡k District Court, a lower court in Iceland, ordered Valitor to resume processing payments for WikiLeaks. Valitor appealed the ruling, which resulted in the Icelandic Supreme Court's April 24, 2013, final judgment.
In November 2010, WikiLeaks released 250,000 U.S. State Department cables to the public, which prompted the card brands, along with other financial services firms, to stop online donations to WikiLeaks from being processed over their networks.
Shortly after the release of the cables, Visa, MasterCard and online payment processor PayPal Inc. said they would no longer process donations made to WikiLeaks. The two card companies terminated their contract with WikiLeaks donations processor DataCell. WikiLeaks said the financial "blockade" had reduced donations to the international online organization by over 95 percent and cost it more than $20 million.
The Icelandic Supreme Court, the last court of appeal in this case, found that Valitor was aware at the time the payment processing contract was signed with WikiLeaks that the purpose of the DataCell payment gateway was to accept WikiLeaks donations. The court also held there was no evidence to support Valitor's claim that it was illegal for it to accept donations to WikiLeaks. It additionally stated it found no reason to believe accepting WikiLeaks donations is any different than accepting other card transactions.
WikiLeaks issued a statement April 24, 2013, calling the judgment an important milestone in the battle to "end the economic blockade that has besieged the organization since December 2010." WikiLeaks Founder Julian Assange said the ruling is a victory for free speech and against the rise of economic censorship. He asked the European Commission to decide if the economic blockade against WikiLeaks "is an unlawful and arbitrary censorship mechanism that threatens freedom of the press across Europe."
WikiLeaks noted the European Parliament passed a resolution in November 2012 calling on the European Commission to draft regulations to prevent payment organizations from "arbitrarily denying services" to organizations like WikiLeaks.
WikiLeaks also filed a formal complaint with the EC against MasterCard and Visa, accusing them of unlawfully abusing their market position. WikiLeaks said the EC is still evaluating whether to open a formal investigation.
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