Following the announcement of a boycott by hacktivist groups “Anonymous” and “LulzSec,” shares in PayPal parent company eBay plunged by over $1 billion in value before perking back up as opportunistic investors bought into the company in hopes of a deal.
Still, as the day wore on, shares in eBay took a beating, down more than three percent to finish the day.
The boycott, popularized by the “#OpPayPal” hashtag on Twitter, called for PayPal users to close their accounts. It was launched in response to the company’s refusal to send donations to anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks.
PayPal suspended all transactions headed toward WikiLeaks last year, in the weeks following their groundbreaking publication of secret U.S. diplomatic cables. MasterCard, Visa and Bank of America followed suit shortly thereafter, freezing the majority of WikiLeaks’ funds.
In response, the anti-secrecy site pointed out that PayPal still accepts donations for the Ku Klux Klan hate group, and a group connected to the mass murderer in Oslo, Norway.
“PayPal continues to withhold funds from WikiLeaks, a beacon of truth in these dark times,” the groups said in a statement. “We encourage anyone using PayPal to immediately close their accounts and consider an alternative.”
“The first step to being truly free is not putting one’s trust into a company that freezes accounts when it feels like, or when it is pressured by the US government,” they added.
The torrent of newly closed accounts was apparently enough to cause PayPal to suspend the page that allows users to close accounts from the Internet, forcing protesters to call their customer service line and wait for a representative. Reports from users by mid-afternoon seemed to indicate they had restored the ability to cancel accounts online.
Reached for comment, a PayPal spokesperson told Raw Story they had not seen “any changes to our normal operations (including account opening and closing) overnight.” On a follow-up noting that the original question had been posed about today’s activity, they issued the same statement again but dropped “overnight.”
Fourteen alleged members of Anonymous were arrested last week in relation to Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks against PayPal, launched by Anonymous after the online payments giant suspended WikiLeaks’ funds. Law enforcement officials were reportedly making arrests based on a list of the top 1,000 Internet protocol addresses recorded during the attack, as compiled by PayPal.
It was, however, not clear whether the arrestees were actually committing a crime when they allegedly participated in the PayPal attack. Conducting a DDoS with an army of computers controlled through malicious software — known as a botnet — is a crime and a serious threat to any company on the Internet. On the other hand, a voluntary botnet, comprised of thousands of people willingly directing their computers to request pages from a server, is legally ambiguous and the charges may not stand up in court.
One of the arrestees, a journalism student from Nevada, faces up to 15 years in prison.
Anonymous and LulzSec said in their boycott announcement that they were “outraged” by the FBI’s “willingness to arrest and threaten those who are involved in ethical, modern cyber operations” against “corrupt and greedy organizations, such as PayPal.”
EBay’s stock value was down about 2 percent at time of this story’s publication. By the time markets closed, it had gone down by more than 3 percent. EBay rival Amazon was up by 3.8 percent, a likely beneficiary of the day’s uncertainty.
Overall, the Nasdaq closed down 2.65 percent, largely due to fears over a potential U.S. debt default. The Dow also saw its worst performance in almost two months, closing down 1.59 percent.
Image credit: Flickr commons.
Updated from an original version with a statement from PayPal, a clarification on account closures and the share’s closing value.