Julian Assange of WikiLeaks. Photo credit: Esthr
Julian Assange announced yesterday that whistleblowing website WikiLeaks is to suspend operations due to a lack of funds. Last year, banks and credit card companies including Visa, Mastercard and PayPal severed their ties with the company. WikiLeaks has subsequently seen a significant fall-off in donations; according to Assange, the shutdown will become permanent without additional funds.
“We cannot allow giant US finance companies to decide how the whole world votes with its pocket”, said a WikiLeaks statement.
An attack on free speech. Writing on The Guardian‘s Comment is Free, James Ball argued that the “bankers’ blockade” amounted to an assault on free speech, and allowed payment service companies too much power. “Visa and Mastercard are already inescapable … If they are allowed to cut off payment to lawful organisations with whom they disagree, the US’s first amendment, the European convention on human rights’ article 10, and all other legal free speech protections become irrelevant”, he wrote.
Hypocrites? Ball also argued that the financial companies involved allow users to donate money to the Ku Klux Klan or the English Defence League, and that this makes their WikiLeaks boycott particularly unfair.
Waning support. According to an Independent editorial opinion piece, the finance companies are not the only parties to turn against WikiLeaks, as even “staunch supporters” are questioning the site. The editorial pointed to the recent publication of diplomatic cables which, it said, had potentially endangered thousands of people.
Failed experiment. Writing for The Atlantic Wire, Elspeth Reeve characterised WikiLeaks as an “abysmal failure.” Reeve argued that the site’s best source was Bradley Manning, “a low-ranking enlisted soldier with problems with authority” – and now even he is out of commission, having been arrested last year. According to Reeve, WikiLeaks has changed nothing: “Those who have secrets that governments want to protect are no safer than they were before WikiLeaks”, she wrote.
Pointless. Adrian Chen at Gawker was similarly unimpressed: “Besides slowly, painfully, dribbling out the diplomatic cable stash that ended up being leaked anyways after Assange reused his password, Wikileaks hasn’t released anything of note since the end of 2010, besides a line of official merchandise”, he said. Chen also questioned the site’s finances, asking how WikiLeaks had managed to spend an apparent million dollars in 2011 without actually publishing any new information.
Future fears. However, Devin Coldewey argued at TechCrunch that the demise of WikiLeaks could have serious implications if other less principled sites started leaking the same information: “It will be chaos, uncontrollable, unredacted, and entirely in the hands of the people least likely to be responsible with it”, he said.