BERLIN – WikiLeaks has lost a major source of revenue after the online payment service provider PayPal cut off its account used to collect donations, saying the website is engaged in illegal activity.
The announcement came as WikiLeaks is struggling to keep its website accessible after service providers such as Amazon dropped contracts, and governments and hackers continued to hound the organization.
The weekend move by PayPal came as WikiLeaks’ release of hundreds of thousands of United States diplomatic cables brought commercial organizations on the Internet that have business ties with the organization under more scrutiny.
WikiLeaks also is under legal pressure in several countries, and a former colleague of founder Julian Assange has said he will launch a competing platform. The U.S. is currently conducting a criminal investigation into WikiLeaks’ release of the diplomatic cables.
Donating money to WikiLeaks via PayPal was not possible anymore on Saturday, generating an error message saying: “This recipient is currently unable to receive money.”
PayPal said in a blog posting that cutting off WikiLeaks’ account was prompted by a violation of the service provider’s policy, “which states that our payment service cannot be used for any activities that encourage, promote, facilitate or instruct others to engage in illegal activity.”
WikiLeaks confirmed the latest trouble in its Twitter account, saying: “PayPal bans WikiLeaks after U.S. government pressure.”
WikiLeaks has embarrassed Washington and foreign leaders by releasing a trove of brutally frank U.S. diplomatic cables.
PayPal, a subsidiary of U.S.-based online marketplace operator EBay Inc., offers online payment services that are one of several ways WikiLeaks collects donations – and until now was probably the most secure and convenient way to support the organization.
The other options listed on WikiLeaks’ website are through mail to an Australian post office box, through bank transfers to accounts in Switzerland, Germany or Iceland, as well as through one “credit card processing partner” in Switzerland.