Visa & MasterCard: KKK Is A-OK, But Wikileaks Is Wicked

from the starvation-through-political-pressure dept

Well, it looks like we can add Visa to the list of companies pressured into no longer working with Wikileaks, following a similar move by MasterCard. At least, unlike MasterCard, Visa isn’t already claiming that Wikileaks was convicted of a crime. Instead, it’s just said that it’s suspended any work with Wikileaks “pending further investigation into the nature of its business and whether it contravenes Visa operating rules.”

As Charles Arthur points out, the Ku Klux Klan’s website points you to a site that takes both MasterCard and Visa — suggesting the pure arbitrariness of both credit card companies’ decision here. It’s a bad idea when firms start making decisions for political reasons. There are all sorts of companies out there that take credit cards to support objectionable (to many) activities. Is it really the credit card companies’ job to pick and choose who they find objectionable to work with — and if so, what basis does it use for saying “KKK is okay, but Wikileaks is not”?

This reinforces the point we recently made about the role of corporate intermediaries in being able to aid governments in censorship, even in the absence of a trial or conviction. Either way, this is a really sad statement about both Visa and MasterCard and their willingness to cave to government pressure.

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Companies: kkk, mastercard, visa, wikileaks

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Comments on “Visa & MasterCard: KKK Is A-OK, But Wikileaks Is Wicked”

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Darryl says:

again, its their choice, within the law.

again, if that is their choice, they have every right to pick and choose who their clients are, I would have to assume then that the KKK is not deemed an illegal group.

I do not agree with MC dealing with the KKK but it is their moral choice..

I also did not agree with George Bush Snr, dealing with the Bin Ladin family either.. did you ?

rasqual says:

Re: Re: again, its their choice, within the law.

“We the people” are the government. Some of “we the people” don’t want tool Assange arrogating the delusion that he’s a sufficient arbiter of what should be kept secret and what should be divulged.

The notion that merely because something is accessible it should, ergo, be widely accessible, is not a priori a rational claim.

In short, Assange is an anti-rationalist and his worshipful sycophants are tools.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: again, its their choice, within the law.

Wikileaks was deemed illegal when it started posting

STOLEN, U.S.A. classified documents.

Whether or not you like America, our government, etc ….what he did was still a crime.

Just like the law states, if you receive stolen goods you are liable for them. He is posting illegally obtained material and posting them to cause “Harm”.

While I don’t like the KKK they have the right to free speech. We may not agree with their views but they aren’t stealing classified documents, posting classified documents to the world and doing it with malicious intent.

Michael Long (profile) says:

Re: again, its their choice, within the law.

Visa and MC have reached the point where they can make or break businesses and industries. They’re effectively currencies, in and as of themselves. Amex is a distant third, and all of the rest (IIRC) barely add up to Amex.

So. Do we really want two corporations deciding what’s “right” and what’s “wrong”?

If the president of Visa is a staunch Republican, should he be allowed to squelch any site that takes donations that benefit the Democratic party? Or vice-versa? Just because they don’t want to do business with them?

Do we want Visa and MC to start dropping companies because they supply abortion equipment and the presidents of both of them are against such things? Or because they don’t like against someone’s religion? Race? Sexuality? Or again, politics?

We don’t allow bankers and lenders and employers and schools to discriminate based on any of those criteria. Visa and MC privileges should be no different.

If the business or activity has been JUDGED illegal, then fine. Otherwise, hands off.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: again, its their choice, within the law.

“Do we really want two corporations deciding what’s “right” and what’s “wrong”?”

One of the many things Darryl misses on a regular basis is that actual freedom should not be dependent on how a few money making enterprises feel at that particular moment.

…and yes, they have the right to do this, as Mike and the rest of us here have the right to criticise them for these actions. It’s sad that the likes of Darryl feels that supporting racist organisations is just, but he has a history of blindly supporting corporate strategy at the cost of society, so that’s not surprising.

mike says:

Re: again, its their choice, within the law.

again, if that is their choice, they have every right to pick and choose who their clients are,

I wonder what you would think if store owners would also limit who their customers were.. for example one would say no blacks, other would say no gays, the one would say no religious people etc…

Yorgos Frag says:

Re: again, its their choice, within the law.

It is not that simple mate. “We reserve the right to refuse service”? When you run a business you have to obey rules. Do I get not to sell you groceries because it is my shop and incidentally I do not like your face/shirt/color/religion?
But again the big pictures here is that firms help governments to censorship people. This is sad and outraging!

gary_7vn (profile) says:

Re: again, its their choice, within the law.

Why do some people take the side of Corporations over people?

Corporations don’t make “moral” choices, that’s the problem isn’t it? It’s all about maximizing profit, humans, human lives don’t matter.

Visa and MC cut off WL because they were told and because they thought it would have been good for business.

The KKK is not illegal, but neither is Wikileaks.

It wasn’t just Bush sr that dealt with the bin Ladens, it was junior too.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: again, its their choice, within the law.

im confused..

are we Wikilleaks from the stand point that our information has been stolen by some guy and he is posting all over. Hence we should form as one and kick his ass


Are we Wikileaks from the stand point of Screw national security, civilian safety, military safety, trade secrets and relationships with the war. Viva La Wikilieaks !!!

Please clarify….and dont tow my be really pissed.

B?rto says:

Re: Re: Re: again, its their choice, within the law.

As Mr. Rudd (Aussie Foreign Minister) just pointed out, there would be no leak at all, had the American Govt guarded his own papers with a minimal efficiency level.

I’m positive loads of the lame professionals who made the leaks now feel very much relieved that the whole issue is turning into a “matter of ideas”. Black against White, or Red, or .

So while the entire planet discusses whether wikileakers are heroes or villains, those lame security experts, fake generals and inefficient politicians all keep their wonderful sky-high salaries.

Am I REALLY the only one noticing it in the whole bloody planet? Next time I make a mistake on my job I’ll blame it on a foreign conspiracy, you bet I will.

Rich says:

Re: Dumb

If your card is like mine, it depends on how you use it. If I use it as a credit card, the merchant pays the fee. If I use it as a debit card, I pay the fee. I always make sure they run it as a credit card. Some cashiers argue with me, either because they don’t understand the difference or their bosses are directing them to always run these cards as debit cards so that the customer will have to pay the surcharge.

DocMenach (profile) says:

Re: Re: Dumb

Rich Wrote:
…If I use it as a credit card, the merchant pays the fee. If I use it as a debit card, I pay the fee…

That is completely incorrect. The merchant pays a fee either way. The fees for Credit card purchases are usually a small flat fee plus a percentage of the charge, for Debit card purchases the flat fee is higher, but the percentage charge is lower. This means that, for most merchants, it is more beneficial to use Debit for large purchases and credit for small ones. The merchant pays a fee either way though.

On a side note: Your bank charges you additional fees for Debit purchases? Sounds like you need a new bank.

John says:

Re: Dumb

AFAIK the bank that issues or services the card gets a percentage of each and every transaction, no matter whether it is processed as a debit or credit transaction.

They get a MUCH higher percentage for credit than debit, I believe I’ve heard up to 15% of the transaction depending on what merchandise is being purchased or where (gas stations vs. groceries, for example).

I do NOT know how this filters back to Visa/MC, though I suspect they get a cut of the bank’s cut. Whether that is only for credit transactions or includes debit as well I have absolutely no idea.

schluecker (profile) says:

Re: Dumb

Yes they work through your bank to provide you with coverage wherever debit-MCs are accepted. They provide you with the ability to swipe your card at a restaurant, etc., as opposed to having to use cash. I don’t know how they make money doing it because it comes from your bank account, but I would assume they did it for profit! Maybe they take some of that $35 overdraft fee, if you overdraw.

SoS (user link) says:

Remarks on Internet Freedom

?Remarks on Internet Freedom? by Hillary Rodham Clinton, United States Secretary of State, at The Newseum in Washington, DC, on January 21, 2010:


And censorship should not be in any way accepted by any company from anywhere. And in America, American companies need to make a principled stand. This needs to be part of our national brand. I?m confident that consumers worldwide will reward companies that follow those principles.

Now, we are reinvigorating the Global Internet Freedom Task Force as a forum for addressing threats to internet freedom around the world, and we are urging U.S. media companies to take a proactive role in challenging foreign governments? demands for censorship and surveillance. The private sector has a shared responsibility to help safeguard free expression. And when their business dealings threaten to undermine this freedom, they need to consider what?s right, not simply what?s a quick profit.


(Emphasis added)


?In America, American companies need to make a principled stand? ? ?Hillary Clinton, Remarks on Internet Freedom.

B?rto says:

Re: Remarks on Internet Freedom

That’s what I call “hillarious quotes” :))))

Let’s be blunt about it, politicians stink all over the planet. If they weren’t natural born liars they’d all have chosen another business.

And now it seems that politicians run banks and CC services, too… makes a perfect global Communist state, I’m sure Northern Koreans will be pleasantly impressed.

Alatar says:

again, its their choice, within the law.

I guess what Darryl means is that it’s some kind of Apple Appstore situation : they might be dirty censorers, but they have the right to do so with their product. As long as they stick to the contract (dont know what closure clauses there are in it) and give him the money back, their attitude is legal.
That makes them nasty censorers, but they have the right to do so. It is neither legitimate nor morally acceptable, but that doesn’t make any of it illegal and there’s nothing we can do against that, except vote with our wallet.

Michael says:

Re: Re: again, its their choice, within the law.

It is that simple, I called in and canceled mine and told them why, I also closed my paypal account and canceled an order for new boots and helmet, and told the store I had canceled because I won’t use paypal because of their stance on the wikileaks thing. We ALWAYS have a choice, not always a comfortable one, but I am totally willing to work a bit harder to buy things online in order to follow my principles.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: again, its their choice, within the law.

“That makes them nasty censorers, but they have the right to do so. It is neither legitimate nor morally acceptable, but that doesn’t make any of it illegal and there’s nothing we can do against that…”

By this logic, we wouldn’t ever evolve from “lesser” forms of government into a Democracy, nor would we have things like freedom of speech or concepts like fair trials and such.

It is our job as citizens of this planet to point out these abuses and pressure people, companies and governments to do the “right thing”, even though it might not be their job to do so or the law protects their actions. Even if our pressure is just in the form of angry internet posts 🙂

Jim Moore says:

Re: Re: again, its their choice, within the law.

Actually it’s our ‘job’ as world citizens to form into the biggest armed gang in the world and run the place, including making it the law that companies serve us exactly how we want to be served.
Democracy is just the biggest, meanest gang on the planet. At the moment we’re ruled by the capitalist mafia minority. It’s time to take back our birthright as human beings from these sociopaths.

BrerScientist says:

Re: Cash vs. Credit

Not explicitly, no. But there are costs to handling cash. Providing starting cash in the drawers to make change, counting and storing it, taking it to the bank (or paying someone to do that). Not to mention, its much easier for an employee to skim off cash than with credit cards. So accepting cash isn’t free either.

xenomancer (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Cash vs. Credit

“As a merchant you don’t pay a percentage of the sale if it is paid in cash.”

What about taxes? There is a cost of doing business built in no matter what you do, and there is currently no way around someone who is at the very least displeased with wikileaks taking a piece of your payment for goods and services.

Mr. Snark says:

Bet Online with Visa And Mastercard against Julian Assange!

My guess is that they send Julian Assange to Gitmo until they find something to charge him with.

Who knows, he may even get **waterboarded** because apparently that’s still legal!

If you wanted to donate to WikiLeaks, but can’t, this is the perfect opportunity to use your Visa/MC to place bets at

Chargone (profile) says:

… the day websites start accepting standard debit cards, or even set themselves up to receive direct transferrers as part of their sales process, (not even sure if this is Possible unless the banks change their systems, but who knows?) is the day the credit card companies stop being important.

here, i can have visa or mastercard or American Express or some random bank specific ones no one outside the country has ever heard of. for credit cards.

last i checked, only visa (and Possibly mastercard) offered debit cards.

if you live somewhere out in the arse end of nowhere, globally speaking, you end up buying online. if you are like me and realise that credit cards are a Stupid idea on so many levels it’s not funny (the american system is set up so you can’t really avoid them, unfortunately, but NZ is a lot more focused on Debit cards, and tradesmen and such will still tend to take cash or cheques instead), then these debit cards that run through the credit system and thus can be used online are pretty important.

I’d drop my visa debit card in response to this in a heart beat… were it not for the fact that my only alternative for most of my purchases is using my mother’s visa Credit card. (yes, i am aware of paypal. no, an entity who’s contract is specifically worded to allow them to take your money and run without providing ANY service or good for it is NOT an acceptable option… especially when it’s just as bad)

but yeah, if they worked online i’d drop the visa debit card with it’s NZ$10 a year fee (seriously, from the customer’s point of view, that is the only difference between it and a regular bank card… and the price of goods is identical whether you use card or cash) and just get a bank debit card (and we once again have a bank integrated with the post office (or at least sharing premises with it), owned by the government and run as a state owned enterprise… after having just that arrangement years ago and selling it off in favour of foreign owned banks, which were then found utterly unsatisfactory. that’s the bank i use.)

so, currently my choice is to give visa my 10 bucks a year… or be basically unable to buy any of the books i’m interested in without paying seriously inflated prices for quite limited selection. admittedly this Is a luxury, but a fairly imporant one in my situation.

webterractive says:

Hypocrisy, Priceless

Once again this speaks to AMERICAN hypocrisy, regarding THEIR point of view. I think Clinton was applauding Google for refusing to do Beijing’s bidding regarding web privacy and Microsoft/Yahoo we’re being criticized for giving in. But now it seems that that every notion has been forgotten. I’m sorry America but the truth is out and there is nothing you cannot do.

Shendai says:

Kudos to Visa & MC

Actually, I commend these companies for discontinuing their business relationship with the foreign criminal organization Wikileaks that knowingly transmits classified US documents.

Still amazing to me how many people are willing to disregard all sanity and support that Assange and his terrorist organization.

Martijn says:

Re: Kudos to Visa & MC

Shendia wrote: “Actually, I commend these companies for discontinuing their business relationship with the foreign criminal organization Wikileaks that knowingly transmits classified US documents.”

Just like the New York Times, the Guardian, and many others.

In what possible way is WikiLeaks a criminal organization? They’re not the ones that leak classified data, the people in the US government and military did that. WikiLeaks just publishes them, as is their civic duty. They have not been convicted for anything, and I doubt they ever will.

If Visa and MasterCard had canceled WikiLeaks’ account because they got a court order, they wouldn’t have had any other choice than to do what they did. But now they’re giving the message that press freedom is worse than racism. Not an attitude that belongs in a free nation. I hope they get kicked out of the EU for it.

Beverly Crandon (profile) says:


This whole situation is astounding. The accusations of treason and governmental pressures on business leaders to comply, as government agencies shamelessly try to stifle our right to information, makes the US government look awkwardly hypocritical. The things they disparage countries like China and Nortk Kores about, when reviewiewing their control on communication, is the same thing the US is accused of here. Nonetheless, I would be surprised if by summer 2011 if the Assang movie isn’t in theatres.

rasqual says:

Re: Hypocritical

“stifle our right to information”


Who ARE you idiots?

Are ALL of us entitled to ALL information in government custody? Why don’t you have the balls to actually make such a ludicrous claim, so you can be laughed off the planet? Because it’s simpler for your were mind to just fail to examine the preposterousness of the assumption that Assange and crew are qualified to make determinations of what should and should not be divulged.

Hypocrisy? Heh. How open is Assange’s process to scrutiny?

Does the public have a right to the internal memos between WikiLeaks insiders?


One thing about this whole affair, it’s brought the morons to the foreground and they’re really showing their lack of brains for all to see.

Anonymous Coward says:

I remember Dubya banging on about how terrorists attacked the U.S. because “they hate our freedom”, and now Americans are happily throwing away that very freedom and allowing all manner of civil rights and human rights violations in the name of “protection”.

I know it’s a terrible cliche, but the terrorists ARE winning.

This is just one more area where we can see it happening. Government puts pressure on businesses to stop dealing with an organization of which the government doesn’t approve – even though they haven’t broken any laws – business complies, Americans twiddle thumbs and shrug their shoulders because it’s nothing to do with them… or so they think…

rasqual says:

Re: Re:

“even though they haven’t broken any laws”

Their divulgence depended on the violation of U.S. law by an American citizen sworn to uphold such law. In other words, Assange is a coward who hides behind jurisdiction issues while denying his sources the innocence he claims for himself. His sources are guilty and culpable while he trots around with impunity, pretending he and his sycophants possess the expertise to redact material with sufficient knowledge to “do no harm?”

The latest round of hackery and DOS attacks on sites perceived by his sycophants as contrary to WikiLeaks merely proves the utter lack of bona fides by these tools who have the chutzpah to claim the high moral ground.

This is ludicrous, but all these fools thereby prove how dangerous they are to civilization itself. They’d light the house afire putatively to kill the cockroaches. Then they smugly assume anyone trying to put out the house fire must be defending the cockroaches.

Irrational morons, with tool Assange as their lead idiot.

annoyingposter (profile) says:

kkk isnt doing anything illegal

mastercard hasnt terminated the kkk because they havent done anything illegal. wikileaks has not only unlawfully obtained classified documents but they have distributed them, breaking laws that would put an american in jail for life and a foreigner possibly to death for espionage. let’s get this straight, this is no act of heroism, it is borderline terrorism. i in no way support the ideals of the kkk but they at least follow the law and rules of the us constitution, whether or not they did not in their past history long ago.

Random Guy says:

Give Your Attacker Ammunition?

Wikileaks has publicly stated that they have a dump from a major financial institution which is their next target and that they intend to embarrass that company and expose proprietary information about that institution and how it does business, presumably with other financial service companies. Pure and simple, the leak constitutes industrial espionage. Why would a business fund an organization (?) like wikileaks that has openly announced that it plans to distribute illegally obtained documents meant to harm that business.

Anonymous Coward says:

One thing I would liek to point out to all the tech nerds that hate big business or corporations.

Do me a favor:

1. Look at the name of your p.c. or laptop. Who made it?

2. Go ahead and open up your P.C. or laptop. Who made the components?

3. Please look at a main majority of the software on your shelves. Who created those?

4. The internet you are using to spam stupid nonsense. Who created that for the world to use?

I can go on and on. Bottom line is Big corporations are here to stay.. it’s because of big companies that you can buy items for cheap.

Next your probably going to bitch that some of your computer parts were made in China, Korea etc…

Go live there if you don’t like it here.

Doug says:

Visa and MC don't deal with KKK

The KKK does what every self-disrespecting organization does when they know their members don’t want certain things showing up on a credit card statement: they use a third party processor to intermediate the transaction. In this case, So, really, Visa and Mastercard are not processing transactions for the KKK.

See their join page:

AAA says:

All goverments

all governments as far as i am concerned are a bunch of money hungry ass holes, the fact that someone has come forward to show us information that has been hidden from us is fan bloody tastic, i take my hat of to those people, governments think the gerneral populous are stupid but what they dont realise is without us they are nothing, these companies who have turned there backs have only done it because they are scared chickens and are bowing down to government pressure, stand up and be counted for you cowards!!

sk3l3t0r says:


Because we allow Visa and Mastercard to exist as a duopoly, they should have no right to make a moral judgment in who they will provide their services to. There is no alternative to these behemoths. Too big to fail and too big to be concerned with what the public at large thinks. Free speech is worthless when the people in power don’t listen.

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