Wikileaks, a website founded by Julian Assange designed as a whistle blowing site focused specifically on revealing secret US government files, has shut down after being subject to what Assange refers to a financial block that is “arbitrary” and “unlawful” by companies that include PayPal, Bank of America, Visa, and Mastercard. Assange contends that this blockade has given the company no choice financially, saying in a statement released that, in order to ensure its continued survival, Wikileaks must forcefully fundraise in order to fight back against the block and those who support it. Assange contends that Wikileaks has lost 95 percent of its revenue, millions of dollars in donations necessaryto continue running the business as unforeseen costs continue to arise. In order to survive, Assange says that the site needs to raise $3.5 million in the next year.
Wikileaks, run by the enigmatic Assange who has been charged recently with sexual assault and is currently awaiting a response from the High Court of Britain about an appeal, has since 2006 literally “leaked” sensitive materials from governments, such as 400,000 secret US military logs that detailed occupation and operations in Iraq. The site specializes in allowing journalists and other concerned citizens to circumvent possible (and occasionally probably) censorship to share with the public secret or hitherto unforeseen materials. Wikileaks currently has twenty staff members and 800 volunteers.
Often given kudos for being the new wave of investigative journalism, it is also applauded by those who consider the secrets it reveals necessary information for the public to receive. It is also obviously feared by governments and corporations who run the risk of having potentially damaging information released. Former US 2008 vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin found herself in the site’s sights when it exposed screenshots of her email, photos, and address book.
One of the drawbacks of the site for believers in journalistic integrity is that it allows anonymously uploaded information. This information is, however, reviewed by journalists as well as volunteers from the mainstream press.The advent of wireless internet has made transmission and reception of such classified materials easier than ever before, to the chagrin of governmental institutions who have found their strongholds hacked and their secrets released.
PayPal claims that Wikileaks violated its “Acceptable Use Policy” by releasing classified materials that violated US law. As other US-based banking institutions are doing, they have thus refused to process donations that were to be used for the website since last December. In the month before the blockage began, Wikileaks claims that the site received more than $1.1 million in donations. Plugs began to be pulled after Wikileaks published roughly 250,000 US State Department cables in the past year.
If sent to the US to face charges relating to Wikileaks, Assange could face the death penalty. Assange is currently staying at Ellingham Hall, a farmhouse in Norfolk. He must wear an electronic tag and check in daily at a local police station.
According to spokesperson Kristinn Hrafnsson, Wikileaks is due to begin accepting submissions again on November 28th, 2011.