Free-Speech Group to Help WikiLeaks Sidestep Payment Embargo

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WikiLeaks supporters have found another way to send money to the controversial organization, circumventing the payments blockade erected by Visa, MasterCard and PayPal.

A group of advocates for free expression has started the Freedom of the Press Foundation, which aims to crowdsource contributions to publishing outlets — including WikiLeaks — that the organizers say expose government and corporate mismanagement, corruption and lawbreaking.

The foundation cites the freeze on payments to WikiLeaks by MasterCard (MA), Visa (NYSE: V) and PayPal, a unit of eBay (EBAY), after the organization published thousands of confidential messages about U.S. diplomacy and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan two years ago.

"Financial transactions are speech," John Perry Barlow, a foundation co-founder and former lyricist for the Grateful Dead, said in a press release issued Monday. "The financial embargo was censorship — not just of WikiLeaks but of all of us who wished to donate to WikiLeaks."

Spokeswomen for MasterCard, Visa and PayPal did not respond immediately to a request for comment.

Besides WikiLeaks, the nonprofit foundation says it will accept contributions for The National Security Archives, MuckRock News and The UpTake. Contributors can specify how much of their donation goes to each of the recipients.

The campaign to raise funds for these four publishers will run through Jan. 31. Money can be sent via the foundation's website using any of the major card brands — Visa, MasterCard, Discover (DFS) or American Express (AXP) — as well as PayPal or Google's (GOOG) Checkout service.

Other members of the foundation's board include Daniel Ellsberg, the whistleblower who gave the Pentagon Papers to The New York Times; the journalist Glenn Greenwald; and the actor John Cusack.

In November, Julian Assange, WikiLeaks' founder, accused two U.S. lawmakers of pressuring Visa and MasterCard to put up the blockade, which he said eliminated 95% of his organization's revenue and cost it roughly $50 million in donations.

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