Swiss Bank Finds Technicality To Freeze Wikileaks Bank Account

from the new-interest-in-terms-of-service dept

Following Paypal's decision to cut off Wikileaks' account, claiming a heretofore unnoticed "terms of service violation," it appears that the Swiss bank account Julian Assange set up to take donations has been frozen for similarly dubious reasons. They apparently "just noticed" that Assange falsely claimed that Geneva was his place of residence. Since that is not the case (should he have just written "on the run"?), the Swiss Post has decided to freeze the account. It's amazing how all of a sudden all of these companies have found weird "terms of service" violations to use as a reason to cut off Wikileaks. This is another reason why terms of service are generally a joke (and why it's crazy to suggest that violating terms of service should be a criminal offense). You can almost always find something that violates those terms of service. Of course, one company that appears to not be backing down (not surprisingly) is Flattr, who is noting that you can still Flattr Wikileaks (you can Flattr us here at Techdirt too, if you'd like -- just look next to each post) and mentioning that one of the very reasons they created Flattr was to avoid censorship.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  •  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 6th, 2010 @ 9:25am

    The article in the NYT that I read concerning this stated that his account wasn't frozen, just closed. A bank spokesperson said that it is his money and they gave (or will give) it back to him, just that the account is closed and that is that.

     

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    Jay (profile), Dec 6th, 2010 @ 9:28am

    Funny...

    Joe Lieberman is going after Wikileaks because he's supported by the banking industry.

    Now the banking industry is taking a more direct approach.

     

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    Hephaestus (profile), Dec 6th, 2010 @ 9:30am

    Thes attempts to shut down WikiLeaks is really going to cause some serious unintended consequences.

    "A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace

    Governments of the Industrial World, you weary giants of flesh and steel, I come from Cyberspace, the new home of Mind. On behalf of the future, I ask you of the past to leave us alone. You are not welcome among us. You have no sovereignty where we gather."

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 6th, 2010 @ 9:45am

    Give us the key wikileaks, we'll handle it from here

     

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    Pierre Wolff (profile), Dec 6th, 2010 @ 9:51am

    Who gets $$$

    So what happens when they freeze the bank account? Let's take the scenario where they say that he violated the TOU and he can't prove otherwise, what would then happen to those funds? Would they be returned to the people who donated them, kept by the bank, or some other scenario I haven't thought about?

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 6th, 2010 @ 9:57am

    Where's My Popcorn

    The neat thing about Assange is that they're executing on "Real Intellegence". Well, while this whole thing rolls out, let's watch at US's influence in Assange and compare it to five years of undeclared war on Osama Bin Laden and where my god damned WMDs are...

    Then, if you're real dangerous, let's compare the total price-tags of the two, AND VOTE THEM ALL OUT.

    Also, can we get an accurate pricing on Amendment 1 and 5, on isle 7 please?

     

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    Wesha (profile), Dec 6th, 2010 @ 10:01am

    Qu'on me donne six lignes écrites de la main du plus honnête homme, j'y trouverai de quoi le faire pendre.

    (If you give me six lines written by the hand of the most honest of men, I will find something in them which will hang him.)

    -- Cardinal Richelieu

     

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    Chris Rhodes (profile), Dec 6th, 2010 @ 10:09am

    That Was My First Thought Too

    "Quick, find a reason to close his account so we can cave without admitting that we caved!"

     

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      The Mighty Buzzard (profile), Dec 6th, 2010 @ 1:47pm

      Re: That Was My First Thought Too

      Spit in people's faces often enough and you're going to get your ass kicked. Thought we all learned this in school.

       

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    dollas, Dec 6th, 2010 @ 10:46am

    Freezing

    Banks do this stuff all the time. If that is the only basis for why they have frozen his bank account, they'll likely have some excuse to hold onto the $ for a certain period of time, and will not allow further transactions until said time frame has expired. Correction---they will allow money to be deposited likely, just not withdrawn.

    The more likely scenario....Wikileaks won't see a penny if the US or some other government decides that Assange can be charged with a crime and the donations in this account somehow are related to the perpetuation of said crime. ...then they will tie the money up for gosh knows how long. Forever.

     

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    SLIME BUCKET, Dec 6th, 2010 @ 10:47am

    pfttt

    I'm sure Paypal has money in accounts from all sorts of wierdies, funny how they and the US govt pick on the most outspoken one. Plus if Assange didn't see this coming then he's not as good at blackmail as I thought. Can't wait for the mini-series.

    ~When the people shall have nothing more to eat, they will eat the rich... -Jean-Jacques Rousseau

     

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      dollas, Dec 6th, 2010 @ 12:04pm

      Re: pfttt

      True enough. I am sure Paypal is full of "illegal" tranactions and blatent violations of terms of service agreements. The US is putting the pressure on Assange to set an example. Its pure posturing.

      I am not so sure that the US actions regarding the Wikileaks leaks will serve to erode free speech principles in the US or reinforce them. I will wait and see.....

      "Free people, remember this, we may acquire liberty, ...but it is never recovered, once it is lost!!" -Jean Jacques Rousseau

       

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    Joseph, Dec 6th, 2010 @ 10:47am

    Free Market

    I don't know why these companies need to find technicalities or obscure terms of service violations.

    A company can simply say "We do not want to do business with you."

    I guess they're just afraid to say it.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Dec 6th, 2010 @ 12:05pm

      Re: Free Market

      "I guess they're just afraid to say it."

      Correct.

       

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        dollas, Dec 6th, 2010 @ 12:42pm

        Re: Re: Free Market

        Darn right they are afraid. They have been counseled by numerous attorneys that they have to be very careful NOT to say that because then they would be open to various lawsuits alleging that "Company X told me he didn't want to do business with me because I was ________ (a woman, black, white, ugly, from such and such country, poor, etc, etc.)" Better to show a violation of some obscure term in a service contract, than just be "real". Being "real" can get you sued.

         

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      Johnny, Dec 6th, 2010 @ 12:36pm

      Re: Free Market

      Ah yes in a free market, a company can just decide they don't want to do business with you.

      Can they refuse you because you have the "wrong" skin color?
      Can they refuse you because you have the "wrong" religion?
      Can they refuse you because you have the "wrong" sexual orientation?

      Just wondering...

       

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    Comboman (profile), Dec 6th, 2010 @ 11:02am

    I thought the Swiss were neutral?

    Swiss banks hold money for drug dealers, money launderers, deposed dictators, hell even the Nazis had money there. But no love for Wikileaks? Could it have anything to do with an upcoming Wikileak revelation of banking scandal?

     

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      Josh in CharlotteNC (profile), Dec 6th, 2010 @ 11:15am

      Re: I thought the Swiss were neutral?

      Did you forget the first big Wikileaks story a year or two ago? It was UBS, a Swiss bank, helping people in committing tax fraud and tax evasion.

       

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      Pierre Wolff (profile), Dec 6th, 2010 @ 4:20pm

      Re: I thought the Swiss were neutral?

      I'm betting that the increase rate of activity we're seeing around Wikileaks censures has a heck of a lot more to do w/the large, as yet unnamed, U.S. bank whose info they plan on releasing in 2011. Perhaps everyone is feeling pressure to close down on Assange before the end of 2010 in hopes to stifle the 2011 release ;)

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 6th, 2010 @ 11:06am

    The US government is terrified and it's acting like a 4 year old bully - Amazon, Paypal, DDoS attacks, DNS server ban, and now the Swiss bank account.

    Wikileaks is now now hosted all over the world by Pirate parties and individuals who care - 200 sites and counting.

    http://torrentfreak.com/pirate-parties-supply-wikileaks-with-much-needed-servers-101205 /

    How to setup a Wikileaks mirror
    http://sanitarium.se/blog/2010/12/howto-setting-up-a-wikileaks-mirror/

    Also, Wikileaks - coming to a torrent near you.

    US government 0, Internet 1.

     

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      The Mighty Buzzard (profile), Dec 6th, 2010 @ 1:59pm

      Re:

      Far more likely they're pissed off than afraid. And their actions to date tend to bear that out. Fear ends up with what you're afraid of being dead. You need anger to make vindictiveness understandable.

       

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    Gatewood Green (profile), Dec 6th, 2010 @ 11:06am

    Devil is in the details

    Actually it turns out he lied on his account paperwork.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2010/dec/06/julian-assange-swiss-bank-account

    I think most banks would take action (or at least reserve the right to do so) if you lied to then during the account opening process. It is not clear (reported) if he cannot use any Swiss bank or just that specific one.

    And lets face it right now Assange is a hot potato. This could be a convenient excuse to get their name out of the limelight. In the grand scheme of things we all tend to act in our overall best self interest. Why should this bank be any different. But can anyone prove that the bank would not have taken the same action against any other customer if it had been brought to their attention that they may have lied in the account opening process.

    I like a good conspiracy tale as much as anyone but let's put Occam's Razor to use here. This is the fault of Assange to not cross his 't's and dot his 'i's.

    As for Amazon and PayPal, let's be serious. They are going to do what makes them money. Assange does not make them a lot if any money. US government contracts (or regulation or lack thereof) make crap loads of money. What do you think they are going to do? They do not require prompting from a government monkey, they are going to be rather proactive about it. "Let's see if I get put in an either/or situation do I want a few pennies and a warm fuzzy or do I want millions of dollars?" You be the judge.

    As an aside I find it entertaining that he wants the US (specifically Obama and Clinton currently) to be investigated for possible crimes immediately and thoroughly, yet he seems to feel different about investigating possible crimes (in Sweden) he might have committed.

    Many, if not all, of *his* current problems are his own doing. Wikileaks does not require a face to accomplish its stated goal, he simply wants to be a face. and he has got his dream. He is the center of global attention. "Look at me now bitch! Defy me I dare you."

    When you open lay down the gauntlet, do not be amazed if a swipe to two comes you way. If he were really noble in the cause he would have either quietly done the work and/or accepted that certain fights for (people's) freedom require major sacrifice including possibly your own freedom. But then altruism does not appear to be his strength.

    Lastly always remember you can vote with your feet and dollars. If you think Amazon and PayPal are wrong, I invite you to boycott their services. Not for a day, not for a week, but until they reinstate cancel accounts and apologize for previous actions, but few here would do that.

    The same goes for Sweden, Switzerland, France, England and Australia. Do not go there, do not spend your money there. If you think the US is wrong in any actions or statements made, then vote with your feet. Leave.

    But remember, Palin (and her off with his head type remarks) is NOT the US government but merely one private citizen. If our president or his designated proxies calls for that, then get concerned.

     

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      Gwiz (profile), Dec 6th, 2010 @ 11:39am

      Re: Devil is in the details

      Many, if not all, of *his* current problems are his own doing. Wikileaks does not require a face to accomplish its stated goal, he simply wants to be a face. and he has got his dream. He is the center of global attention. "Look at me now bitch! Defy me I dare you."

      I get the impression that Assange is more like Wikileak's Zaphod Beeblebrox:

      "Zaphod has two heads, three arms and is "clever, imaginative, irresponsible, untrustworthy, extrovert, nothing you couldn't have guessed". He was also briefly President of the Galaxy. His responsibility in that position was to draw attention away from the true rulers of the universe. To that end, Zaphod and his outrageous behavior were highly successful."

      -from hitchhikers.wikia.com (emphasis mine)

       

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    Andrew D. Todd, Dec 6th, 2010 @ 11:12am

    Distribute Wikileaks like Debian Linux

    Wikileaks might consider adopting the practice of Debian Linux. The Debian organization is more than usually fussy about not handling money, and about not favoring established organizations, so it has to be economical in its hosting practices. This is especially the case because Debian Linux comes on five DVD's. You cannot download Debian Linux from Debian. You can torrent it, or you can go to one of the many mirror sites, or of course, to a disk-burning firm. The mirror sites, naturally, get their copies of Debian via torrent. Thus, all Debian has to serve is a directory of mirror sites and disk burners. Their bandwidth requirements are reduced by a factor of perhaps a million thereby. That said, at present, Wikileaks' mirror directory is about 43 Kbytes, so a hundred million copies would be about four Terabytes. At that level, one might be talking tens of dollars per month.

    The ultimate last-resort method to get money to Julian Assange is to stick a twenty-dollar bill in an envelope, and put it in the mailbox. Some evil people might steal some of the money, en route, of course, but that falls under the heading of acceptable losses.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Dec 6th, 2010 @ 11:46am

      Re: Distribute Wikileaks like Debian Linux

      > The mirror sites, naturally, get their copies of Debian via torrent.

      No, they don't.

      They simply mirror from the master site.

      For the CD/DVD images, they also have a special program which can recreate them from a mirror of the Debian packages.

      See http://www.debian.org/CD/mirroring/index.en.html for the exact details.

       

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    Overcast (profile), Dec 6th, 2010 @ 11:14am

    Big Brother is watching YOU, just don't try to watch him.

     

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    johnny canada, Dec 6th, 2010 @ 12:08pm

    The next set of leaks will contain all the dirty tricks used by the U.S. Gov against them.

     

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    Andrew D. Todd, Dec 6th, 2010 @ 1:03pm

    Re: Re: Distribute Wikileaks like Debian Linux

    Ah, my mistake. I hadn't checked for several years, and Debian apparently liberalized their rules over that time, while shifting emphasis to rsynch and jigdo. However I notice they reserve the right to reassert the old rules at new release time, and they generally discourage people from FTPing the main server. I get my Linuxes through a disk-burner firm myself. A matter of where I live, and what kinds of telecommunications services are available.

    Of course, rsynch and jigdo work on the principle that the typical recipient already has a substantially complete older version, or a version in alternate form, and wants updates. That assumes that there is a fairly stable pool of people using Debian, and that it is not growing rapidly. The update model really doesn't fit Wikileaks very well. When something is initially leaked, as much of it is available immediately as will be available for the foreseeable future. Bradley Manning is in a jail cell, and cannot supply updates. If Assange has not published everything he got from Manning [less redactions], he is very close to doing so.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 6th, 2010 @ 1:41pm

    Interesting editorial in the WSJ about Wikileaks, it quotes the co-founder of Wikipedia as stating that Assange's goal is not the spread of information but the downfall of the American Govt. He states that Assange is attacking not only the US Govt. but the US people.

     

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      Mike Masnick (profile), Dec 6th, 2010 @ 5:06pm

      Re:

      Interesting editorial in the WSJ about Wikileaks, it quotes the co-founder of Wikipedia as stating that Assange's goal is not the spread of information but the downfall of the American Govt. He states that Assange is attacking not only the US Govt. but the US people.

      1. Assange has done nothing to suggest that's true

      2. Larry Sanger is not someone who I would trust as an unbiased commentator on such things. Take a look at his history.

       

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    Pierre Wolff (profile), Dec 6th, 2010 @ 4:16pm

    Swiss Bank, then MasterCard...a solution has emerged

    Looks like a new payments processor has stepped up. You can now donate to Wikileaks at https://donations.datacell.com/

     

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