In its latest attempt to gain funding, Wikileaks has erected a paywall for users who wish to access the Global Information files. Hacktivist group Anonymous does not approve.
The whistleblower website, a proverbial dumping ground for classified documents from the U.S. and beyond, has been in financial trouble for some time. The controversial nature of the site has resulted in both Mastercard and Visa withdrawing payment support, as well as a stop placed on donations sent via PayPal.
In 2010, the loose hacktivist collective sprung to the site's defense when the payment parties barred Wikileaks. Those days may now be long past.
What's the issue? A paywall -- coding that prevents an online user from accessing a website or service without paying for it first. Implemented October 10, if you attempt to access the Global Information files, you are faced with such a system. Proudly declaring "In this election, vote with your wallet - vote Wikileaks', you are required to donate before being granted access. Interestingly, you can pay by Mastercard or Visa.
We have to keep in mind it is only this portion of the site which is behind a paywall, and not Wikileaks itself. However, Anonymous has taken issue with this step to raise money, and has released a statement in return.
After an angry exchange on Twitter between Anonymous and Wikileaks, the paywall was removed for a short period of time. However, it returned on the 11th -- prompting the hackers to retaliate, believing they have been "betrayed" by such "rabid scrounging for money". The group's statement argues that "Anonymous has been a steadfast ally of both WikiLeaks and Assange", and many Anonymous members have been charged or arrested for their support -- but no Wikileaks staff members have ever been charged or imprisoned:
"To this day, not ONE single WikiLeaks staff are charged or incarcerated. However, Anonymous has 14 indicted (facing 15 years) for online protests defending WikiLeaks - and one (Jeremy Hammond) in prison and facing 20 years for allegedly supplying the Stratfor GI Files. Not to mention the heroic Bradley Manning who now rots in Ft. Leavenworth Prison facing life.
Despite that fact, WikiLeaks has chosen to dishonor and insult Anonymous and all information activists by prostituting the Stratfor Files and other disclosures that Hammond and Manning stand accused of supplying."
"Regardless of any workarounds, the fact remains that a meretricious page is placed for the majority of visitors that cannot be closed. The obvious intention is to force donations in exchange for access. This is a filthy and rotten, wholly un-ethical action - and Anonymous is enraged."
The hacking collective insists it will not attack any of the Wikileaks web assets, as the site is considered a media outlet. According to the group, any future attacks on the site attributed to them is a "lie", but what they can and will do is withdraw support not only for the whistleblower site, but for Julian Assange -- who is currently taking refuge in the London-based Ecuadorian embassy.
"No longer will Anonymous risk prison to defend WikiLeaks or Julian Assange from their enemies. No longer will Anonymous risk prison to supply material for WikiLeaks disclosures. Anonymous turns it's back on WikiLeaks. WikiLeaks has with it's actions this past 48 hours betrayed Anonymous, and thus has lost it's biggest and most powerful supporter."
Image credit: ZDNet/Charlie Osborne/ People's Liberation Front