Iceland Court Orders Visa To Start Processing Wikileaks Payments Again Within Two Weeks

from the economic-censorship dept

It’s been about a year since Wikileaks filed its complaint against Visa, Mastercard and Paypal for cutting off all payments to the site following the infamous leak of the State Department cables. Wikileaks saw this is a clear attempt to censor the site using an economic workaround, and a violation of their contract—and now at least one court has agreed. Today Wikileaks announced a significant victory in the case against Visa, with the court giving them two weeks to start processing payments again:

In a case against Valitor, formerly VISA Iceland, Reykjavík District Court just ruled the company had violated contract laws by blocking credit card donations to Wikileaks. After WikiLeaks’ publications revealing U.S. war crimes and statecraft in 2010, U.S. financial institutions, including VISA, MasterCard, Bank of America, erected a banking blockade against WikiLeaks wholly outside of any judicial or administrative process. The blockade stripped away over 95% of donations from supporters of WikiLeaks, costing the organization in excess of USD 20M.

The court ruled that the donation gateway should be reopened within 14 days otherwise Valitor will be penalized with a fine of 800 000 ISK daily. WikiLeaks is persuing several actions against the blockade and a European Commission preliminary investigation into the blockade was started last July. A Commission decision on whether to pursue the financial services companies involved in the blockade is expected before the end of August.

This is a big win for Wikileaks and a bad sign for the other companies complicit in the payment blockade. Whatever you may think of Wikileaks, cutting off their access to donations at the payment-processing level is a highly questionable shortcut—and hopefully the courts recognize this in the cases against other payment providers.

Filed Under: , ,
Companies: valitor, visa, wikileaks

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Iceland Court Orders Visa To Start Processing Wikileaks Payments Again Within Two Weeks”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Anonymous Coward says:

I don’t think this one will fly very far.

The courts can order as they wish, but Wikileaks was clearly at the time in violation of it’s merchant agreements.

I wouldn’t be shocked to see this go much, much further, with Visa being the eventual winner. You cannot force a company to do business with anyone they don’t want to do business with.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

One of the issues of Wikileaks is that the addresses provided and information about officers was apparently not complete and not correct, according to reports at the time. Also, Wikileaks was soliciting donations through third parties, which were not set up with Visa to process for other parties.

TtfnJohn (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

If what you assert is true then those would have been defenses VISA could have used in the case. The main defense would have been breach of contract which is often as close to a bulletproof defense as you can get. If they did and the court rejected them they may have grounds for appeal depending on the court’s reasons for rejecting them.

They can appeal if they want but for now in Iceland they’re under a court order to resume processing payments. Period, full stop. If VISA doesn’t resume processing payments and doesn’t appeal they’re in violation of the court order and there would come a time when VISA may be held in contempt of court.

VISA has the path of appeal and asking for a stay while the appeal proceeds. They’ll act while within the law on this one. If it means opening the donation gateway for a few weeks so be it. You don’t ignore court orders you don’t like. VISA knows that even if you don’t.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Visa can afford to ignore the court rulings for a VERY,VERY long time, and they will if they feel they need to.

They may also do something like only allow icelandic cards to process, and block all others, to stay within the jurisdiction of the courts. Icelandic courts cannot compel Visa to process cards from outside of the country.

There are many ways that Visa can follow the order and still not give Wikileaks much of anything.

Visa can, in the next two weeks, invoke new processing rules that moves “leaks” style sites into a similar category as porn, and requires site reviews, sources for content, and long hold times and such, while also holding them to very low chargeback or credit requirements. They can also require that the company they process for be located in the same country as the processor accounts, etc.

There is plenty of ways for Visa to do what they have to do. Any victory for Wikileaks is just an invitation for Visa to update it’s rules (which all merchants are bound by) to make it almost impossible for them to process.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

So, basically what you are saying is that the Icelandic branch of Visa (which is who was sued, not Visa’s global offices) can choose to not process the payments (costing them 800,000 ISK per DAY), or they can make their card so useless that people just give them up entirely. Of course they can just comply and stop being dicks about it. Hard choice!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Why did they not use these arguments in the first place? If they had such solid evidence they should have used it and ended this case once and for all.

They’re decision was influenced purely by political figures and their agendas. Wikileaks walked a very fine line considering a lot of the information was very powerful and many did not what their dirt uncovered.

It’s always dangerous to mess with people with so much power. It’s sad that so much fucked up stuff goes on 🙁

VISA and the others fucked up by cutting them off. The morals behind it were extremely wrong and it was a low blow to a lot of things.
It was a blow against whistle blowers.
“It’s like saying go ahead and talk we’ll just shut down the people you talk with”

It was a blow against doing the right thing.
“It’s like saying sure you can do the right thing and help those who have been wronged but we’ll come for you with everything we got”

It was a blow against freedom of speech.
“It’s like saying sure you can say what you like but if we don’t like it you’ll end up having to answer to us”

It was a blow against donations in general.
“It’s like saying donations to non profit organizations are perfectly legal as long as we agree with that they support.”

It’s absurd that these companies have the power to effectively destroy most of a persons or organizations ability to receive money.

If you’re going to be a global payment processor you have to take the good with the bad. It would be like a bank refusing to do business based on the color of someones skin.

These people don’t like the information Wikileaks releases? Well is it too hard to ask these people to stop doing so much corrupt shit?

Is it too hard to ask these people to base their job off of some morals that’s actually decent?
Is it too hard to do the right thing?
Is it too hard to not fuck people over?
Is it too hard to not do whats actually in the best interest of the people.
Is it too hard to not be transparent when your actions can effect entire countries?

I agree some secrets need to stay secret but giving orders to do shit that’s illegal is not one of them.

It really pisses me off that there is so much bad stuff that goes on there is a need for Wikileaks. The problem is not that Wikileaks releases proof of corruption to the world. The real problem is Wikileaks is necessary.

If the world had more good people running it there would be no reason for Wikileaks or any other places like them.

There is so much corruption it’s beyond me I don’t understand it. What it says about humans makes me sad 🙁

Spointman (profile) says:

Re: Re:

[citation needed]

Visa and Wikileaks had a valid contract, as far as I know. Visa unilaterally chose to terminate that contract. Usually, that’s not allowed — otherwise there’d be no point to having a contract in the first place.

You can choose whether to do business with a particular company or not, sure. But once you do, once you sign a contract with them, you’re bound by the terms of that contract. You can’t change your mind and pull out unilaterally without there being some consequences.

TtfnJohn (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Credit card companies do have the ability to unilaterally suspend or cancel cards if the entity holding the card is, say, chronically late in making payments.

From what I see here is that there was a claim that VISA had breached their contract with Wikileaks without contractual grounds to do so as outlined in the terms of service between Wikileaks and VISA.

Lurking in the background is the reality that the suspension of payment processing wasn’t a contractual act but political pressure from the United States and United Kingdom, among others. That doesn’t figure in the ruling that I can see except for this in the summary:
“WikiLeaks is persuing several actions against the blockade and a European Commission preliminary investigation into the blockade was started last July. A Commission decision on whether to pursue the financial services companies involved in the blockade is expected before the end of August.” which passes that issue over to the EC.

Machin Shin (profile) says:

Re: Re:

It is kind of funny that you would say that. It is VERY possible to force a company to do business with people they don’t want to do business with. What do you think a lot of anti-discrimination laws do?

On top of that, you definitely can hold a company responsible for breaking any contracts they may have signed. So really I guess we will see how far this goes, but it sounds like Visa is in a bad spot to try and fight it.

Chris-Mouse (profile) says:

Re: Re:

umm no. Visa chose to do business with Wikileaks. Visa then arbitrarily chose to ignore the contract they had signed with Wikileaks. The court is reminding Visa that once you sign a contract, you have to live up to the terms of the contract.

If Wikileaks had been in violation of the agreement, then Visa would have been able to use that as justification for terminating the contract. The fact that they were not able to show such violations to the court makes it hard to believe that any such violations occurred.

Before you start pointing at things like ‘treason’ and ‘espionage’, please explain why no charges have ever been filed against Wikileaks in spite of over two years time in which to do so.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

You cannot force a company to do business with anyone they don’t want to do business with.

And why the fuck can’t you?

I know nothing at all about Icelandic law, but there’s no general international principle that prevents a government from regulating businesses.

In English (and American) history: Common innkeepers must provide lodging to all benighted travellers that they can take in. Common carriers must provide carriage to all who pay.

What makes common banksters special?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

~And why the fuck can’t you?

a cell phone company can cancel you service at any time. Has nothing to do with if you can pay. I had unlimited data and wanted to change to another provider. I used my phone to stream so much movies and music that my bandwidth was like 250gb. They sent a letter stating even though i have unlimited data my usage was above normal and if i didnt curb my usage they would be forced to cancel. I didnt. they canceled my contract and I didnt have to pay the fee. That was T-moble now I have sprint.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Here’s a bit of what the law was in former times. Note the 1906 date on this treatise.

The Law Of Innkeepers and Hotels Including Other Public Houses Theatres, Sleeping Cars by Joseph Henry Beale, Jr., 1906


? 61. The innkeeper must receive all who apply.

The fundamental duty of the innkeeper to the public, as a person engaged in a public employment is to receive for entertainment in his inn all travellers who properly apply to be admitted as guests. This duty is not absolute, as will be seen; but, subject to the excuses later examined, it binds every keeper of a common inn from the time he opens his doors to the public.


Anonymous Coward says:

Wikileaks was clearly at the time in violation of it’s merchant agreements

Another request for a citation on that one. It certainly couldn’t be for criminal activities, as no international laws were broken except pollution from all the crap thrown around. Wikileaks was guilty of practicing an ideal, which has nothing to do with speaking of ideals.

Anonymous Coward says:

Im not a big fan of wikileaks but VISA did break their contract and should honor it. If they don’t want to do so then they pay the penalty (whatever it is) stated in the contract for doing so and move on.

@Machin Shin – anti-discrimination laws prevent discrimination on the basis of sex, disability, race, homosexuality, marital or domestic status, age, transgender/trans-sexuality, and carer’s responsibility as they pertain to employment, public care, banking, schooling, healthcare, etc. None of which applies to contracts of services rendered.

Now, you might have been think of labor laws which also really don’t apply here either. They govern min. wage, working time, collective bargaining laws, unions, unfair firing, and contractual employment as it pertains to employer/employee..

You cannot force a company private or public to do business with another company private or public. Companies breaking contracts do it all the time. Most times the penalty is less than continuing to do business. Maybe VISA just doesn’t want to be associated with wiki-leaks and that is their right to break the contract and pay the fee. To VISA maybe the fee is less than the perception of association.

Think of it this way, If you hire a guy to build you a house and half way through, if either party no longer wants to honor the contract, the party willing to break the contract pays the fees for doing so and moves on. I personally don’t want to force a person to work for me b/c then you’re just going the get shitty work out of them.

The Groove Tiger (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“@Machin Shin – anti-discrimination laws prevent discrimination on the basis of sex, disability, race, homosexuality, marital or domestic status, age, transgender/trans-sexuality, and carer’s responsibility as they pertain to employment, public care, banking, schooling, healthcare, etc. None of which applies to contracts of services rendered.”

Reading comprehension failure. Anti-discrimination laws SHOW that you CAN force a business to serve someone they don’t want. Nobody said anti-discrimination laws applied to this specific case.

TtfnJohn (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Actually, if I own the property and the building the contractor is building that’s what withholding is all about which is very standard in construction.
The last work I had done on my place I withheld 15% of the quoted price of the work despite the fact that they are a reputable company. They made no objection and once the work was completed and I signed off after doing some checking they were paid.

There are other ways to cancel or get out of a construction project for the homeowner to make use of as well. As for the contractor, go ahead and walk. You just lost the witholding, mate. At the very least.

art guerrilla (profile) says:

Re: um, actually...

you may have noticed a little bill thingy recently, i forget what its actually called, but it amounts to: Protect and Preserve the Health Insurance Industry’s Rapacious Profits FOR-FUCKING-EVER…
something like that…
the whole point, was to ‘force’ ALL citizens to ‘do business’ with private, for-profit health insurance parasites; in other words, EXACTLY the principle you state (which i agree with), was overturned by the SCOTUS decision on this…
there is NOTHING to prevent the gummint from insisting we do ANYTHING they fucking want to, now… including buy this or that widget-crap from this or that private korporation…

(ps i am 100% for ‘universal healthcare’, ‘single payer’, gummint subsidized system; but NOT at the expense of preserving THE major problems with the current system: the health insurance parasites, Big Pharma, etc…)

in other words, your valid point no longer obtains: we are all vassals of the korporatocracy enforced by ‘our’ (sic) gummint…
art guerrilla
aka ann archy

Violated (profile) says:

To be honest I am looking forwards to seeing how this one goes and I now await further news.

Wikileaks were of course attacked by the US Administration who ordered these financial services of Visa, Mastercard and PayPal to terminate all support to Wikileaks. Not to forget that attack on Julian of course.

So this means this itsy bitsy Iceland court and Judge is now going head to head with the entire US Administration. Viva the little guy and all that.

My main point would be that Valitor is only the Iceland branch of the global Visa and is certainly not the Visa administration based in the United States. So the more serious question is if larger US Visa would allow Valitor to do this knowing the US Administration have demanded they cease Wikileaks support. Well if the US Visa still say no they risk losing their business to Iceland.

I think what we have here is a good old diplomatic incident and what is more telling is that the European Commission will look at this case very closely and will want to see what the United States does next knowing that by August they could throw themselves into those same jaws.

Well all I can say is… pass the popcorn.

anon says:


No payment service should be allowed to withhold there services based on political reasoning, or even social reasoning. Banks are supposed to be there to ease the transfer of money from one entity to another , that is there business. If there is proof of illegal activity then that proof must be given to the relevant police department and followed up there, If the police freeze the account they should only be allowed to do it with a court order.

At the moment the US Gov had used there power to ask nicely for the service providers to stop doing business with certain individuals and there businesses for political reasons, this is illegal in most countries, and with this ruling could be overturned.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Me, I'm waiting for the commentators to start citing the US Consitutition to rebut this case....

Me, I’m waiting for the commentators to start citing the US Consitutition to rebut this case….

Texas is hardly a socialist state. Here’s some current Texas law:


(a) On the tender of the legal or customary rate for goods offered for transportation, a common carrier, other than a railroad, shall receive and transport the goods if in the order presented:

(1) the carrier has the capacity to safely carry the goods on the pending trip; and

(2) the goods are of the kind usually transported by the carrier and are offered at a reasonable time.

(b) A common carrier that violates Subsection (a) is liable

(1) for damages to a person injured by the violation; and

(2) to the owner of the goods for a penalty of not less than $5 or more than $500.

(c) An action under Subsection (b) must be brought in the county in which the damages occur or the common carrier resides.

(Emphasis added.)

Contrary to what some people may believe, this duty of common carriage is in accord with both US and Texas constitutions.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Me, I'm waiting for the commentators to start citing the US Consitutition to rebut this case....

OK, so what does this have to do with a court case in Iceland?

You’re the commenter who drug the US Constitution underneath an article about a court case in Iceland? I’m pointing out that the Constitution does not actually stand for the proposition of government of corporations, by corporations and for corporations.

From the Google translation of the decision:

The plaintiff says that the principle in domestic law to the person offering their services commercially is required to provide services to anyone seeking to him, unless urgent and objective reasons for it in return. This value especially when it is a license and services that only a few entities.

This principle in Icelandic law does have parallels in English and American law.

Paul Renault (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Me, I'm waiting for the commentators to start citing the US Consitutition to rebut this case....

You’re the commenter who drug the US Constitution underneath an article about a court case in Iceland

No, I was expecting other commentators to start citing US law when ‘explaining’ why the judge might or might not be wrong. I see this kind of behaviour all the time. I was trying reverse psychology so that this wouldn’t happen. Obviously, I failed.

I knew full well that this was an Icelandic case and court. And it’s a good decision, mostly, IMHO, for the reason I stated: banks are not businesses like other businesses are.

Nic (profile) says:

Personally, I think the ability to block political payments the way VISA/MasterCard/Paypal did should be illegal.

These 3 companies completely corner the market. Once they’ve blocked you, that’s like Pepsi and Coke colluding to ban you from buying their products. Good luck finding another provider to get the service you want. They’re in a monopoly position and they’re clearly abusing it.

Considering the almost completely inability to be able to send money to Wikileaks after their moves, why should they be allowed to collude and refuse service ‘just because’?

Ninja (profile) says:

I’m confused on how this will work out (considering VISA doesn’t appeal) and considering VISA is an US company, not Icelandic.

In any case it’s one HUGE win for Wikileaks and Assange himself. I do have my disagreements on how things work on Wikileaks but I helped them by buying their t-shirts. It was damn expensive but the US shouldn’t be allowed to censor by placing economic blockades. And, in my view, by helping Wikileaks I’m also helping with the fight against censorship around the world.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...