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Iceland may ban MasterCard, Visa over WikiLeaks censorship

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Credit card companies that prevented card-holders from donating money to the secrets outlet WikiLeaks could have their operating licenses taken away in Iceland, according to members of the Icelandic Parliamentary General Committee.

Representatives from Mastercard and Visa were called before the committee Sunday to discuss their refusal to process donations to the website, reports Reykjavik Grapevine.

“People wanted to know on what legal grounds the ban was taken, but no one could answer it,” Robert Marshall, the chairman of the committee, said. “They said this decision was taken by foreign sources.”

The committee is seeking additional information from the credit card companies for proof that there was legal grounds for blocking the donations.

Marshall said the committee would seriously review the operating licenses of Visa and Mastercard in Iceland.

WikiLeaks’ payment processor, the Icelandic company DataCell ehf, said it would take immediate legal action against the companies to make donations possible again.

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“DataCell who facilitates those payments towards Wikileaks has decided to take up immediate legal actions to make donations possible again,” DataCell CEO Andreas Fink said last week. “We can not believe WikiLeaks would even create scratch at the brand name of Visa.”

“It will probably hurt their brand much much more to block payments towards WikiLeaks than to have them occur,” Fink added.

After news that the companies had stopped processing donations to the secrets outlet, those participating in an online campaign known as “Operation Payback” temporarily knocked the websites of Visa and Mastercard offline.

“This does clearly create massive financial losses to WikiLeaks which seems to be the only purpose of this suspension,” Fink continued. “This is not about the brand of Visa, this is about politics and Visa should not be involved in this.”

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Neither company has offered a detailed explanation of why they stopped processing payments to WikiLeaks. MasterCard said only that WikiLeaks had acted in an “illegal” manner, in violation of the company’s terms.

The companies still process payments to The Guardian and the New York Times, which have published leaked US diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks.

“I can use Visa and Mastercard to pay for porn and support anti-abortion fanatics, Prop 8 homophobic bigots, and the Ku Klux Klan,” Jeff Javis noted at The Huffington Post. “But I can’t use them or PayPal to support Wikileaks, transparency, the First Amendment, and true government reform. Just saying.”

Last week, the Swiss bank Postfinance closed the account of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange because he gave “false information regarding his place of residence during the account opening process.” Swiss authorities are investigating if the bank violated secrecy rules by publicly announcing that it had closed his account.

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