Contrary to widely-circulated reports in the Associated Press and Forbes, Visa did not lift its financial blockade on WikiLeaks, a Visa spokesperson tells The Atlantic Wire. Earlier today, headlines splashed across the web "WikiLeaks MasterCard, Visa Donations Accepted Again" after Andreas Fink, the chief executive of DataCell, an internet hosting service in Iceland that helps channel money to WikiLeaks, posted a note on his company's web site saying, "DataCell is happy to report that we are now able again to process donations to Wikileaks." The AP and Forbes were careful to note that neither MasterCard nor Visa had confirmed the report. Now, Visa is making it clear: "We have not reinstated DataCell and are looking into how transactions are being made."
In his statement, Fink suggested that the credit card companies had made an about-face after his recent legal threats against the financial firms. "Last week, WikiLeaks and DataCell said they were preparing to take the credit card companies to court in Denmark," reported the AP. "On its website, WikiLeaks claims that the block placed on WikiLeaks by companies such as MasterCard and Visa have cost it more than 90 percent of its donations, or $15 million."
Fink's note said that its "payment gateway" to Visa and MasterCard provided by Teller A/S had been closed since December. He wrote, "today we have observed that an alternative payment processor that we have contracted with, has in fact opened the gateway for payments with Visa and MasterCard, and now also for American Express Card payments, which is an option we did not had before." He added a taunt: "DataCell is happy that our threats of legal action have had this effect."
As of late WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been doing everything he can to raise funds for his organization, including writing a book (a reported $1.7 million haul that is now being delayed) and raffling off seats at lunch with him and philosopher Slavoj Zizek.
We've reached out to MasterCard but have not heard back. We spoke with PayPal, another firm that imposed a financial blockade on WikiLeaks last December and the company said its position is unchanged. "There has been no change to PayPal's policy regarding donations to support Wikileaks. However, we are allowing payments for the Julian Assange legal defense fund via a facebook fundrazr app."
Update: DataCell CEO Andreas Fink sends an e-mail clarifying what his company observed:
Donations on https://donations.datacell.com are being processed.
I can confirm you that my own test got charged on my personal credit card statement.
I personally retested a minute ago and my donation went through without any problem (unless I messed up the expiration date or so).
Maybe Visa has no clue what their own payment processors are doing?