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EFF Spinoff Pools Donor Dollars To Prevent WikiLeaks-Style Payment Blockades 95

Posted by timothy
from the follow-the-monkey dept.
nonprofiteer writes "Two years ago, Visa, MasterCard, PayPal, Western Union and Bank of America cut off all funding to WikiLeaks. A group of free information advocates wants to prevent a similar financial blockade on information from happening again. Daniel Ellsberg, John Perry Barlow, and EFF staffers are founding the Freedom of the Press Foundation, an org that will raise money and channel it to edgy media groups that might suffer from a WikiLeaks-style embargo. When donors give to the Foundation, they can choose to have their funding passed on to any media group under the Foundation's umbrella (currently WikiLeaks, Muckrock, The National Security Archives and UpTake). That strategy aims to make it harder to cut funding to any of those organizations, or any added in the future. And because the site is encrypted, donors who worry about being identified as giving to any particularly controversial group can do so without being identified. It's like Tor for charitable giving."
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EFF Spinoff Pools Donor Dollars To Prevent WikiLeaks-Style Payment Blockades

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 17, 2012 @08:14AM (#42313177)

    DHS comes after them for setting up a very al-qaeda style charity.

    • by Nerdfest (867930) on Monday December 17, 2012 @08:56AM (#42313413)

      Having it as something exclusive to funding "edgy" information sites is one thing, but if the money is pooled under the EFF it makes it look much more draconian if anything is done to it. It would be like shutting down the ACLU because you don't like them funding one particular group.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        I think you're forgetting that (a) the EFF is 'like' the ACLU in the same sense that your high school baseball team is 'like' being a professional player, or to put it less obtusely-- one was founded by three accomplished lawyers and has about a century of respectable legal experience.. the other is founded by a poet/grateful dead lyricist and a guy who designed lotus 1-2-3. They have complementary purposes, but thats about where the similarities stop.

        and (b) there is a difference (legally speaking) between

        • by Anonymous Coward
          AC to preserve mod points...

          That said, I don't think that Wikileaks has done anything worse than the likes of the New York Times has done in the past. Or for that matter near as much as the colonial press had done a couple hundred years ago. Freedom of speech and the press are fairly well recognized, and treating them dramatically differently because they are an online entity corrupts the intent of the highest law... It's like saying the right to bear arms shouldn't apply to anything more advanced than
      • Make sure you DON'T (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Andy Prough (2730467) on Monday December 17, 2012 @12:43PM (#42315371)
        Google "ACLU lawyer jailed". Wouldn't want to burst your bubble about the whole "untouchable" ACLU myth.
    • DHS comes after them for setting up a very al-qaeda style charity.

      ... Or until the common payment methods block payments sent to the EFF spinoff.....

      What world. We were warned that the move from tangible (cash) to digital (credit/balance) would be a power move by those who gate the movement of the bits....

      and here we are... .we cannot support people that the gates do not like.... Big Brother is a business, not a government.

  • by pjt33 (739471) on Monday December 17, 2012 @08:14AM (#42313179)

    What's to stop Visa and Mastercard from refusing to process payments to this new foundation?

    • by Anonymous Coward

      nothing, more-over, the federal authorities are going to be all over a charity-front that allows anonymous donations to groups they're trying to setup the stage to be tried as espionage. Poof, a NSL later and you find out that youre anonymous donations werent so anonymous (seriously, wtf is up with eff, for being lawyers youd think theyd be familiar with relevant portions of the patriot act) and ehhhh theres a lot of islamic charity proxies that have gotten in a lot of trouble for providing material support

      • by maroberts (15852) on Monday December 17, 2012 @08:26AM (#42313231) Homepage Journal

        IIRC the payment processors have performed this economic blockade without due process or a legal ruling, so to clobber this organisation would take a court hearing, which may be what EFF is angling for.

        • by dwightk (415372)

          Why would it take a hearing?

          • by Anonymous Coward

            Why would it take a hearing?

            Exactly, it didn't before. It probably won't again if the time comes. In the meantime you can bet the spooks are already watching this thing like a hawk. Effectively it could become a honeypot the government didn't have to setup themselves.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          also, manning is going to get off because they put him on suicide watch...

          Horrible legal advice is horrible. I'm not terribly positive you even have a right to a credit card or if theyre free to just say F-U to whomever they want (I'm guessing the later).

          In other words, I don't think you're legally entitled to a 'legal ruling' or third-party 'due process', which just makes the stupid a double down by EFF if that's their play.

          Not saying I agree with it, heck, if the hammer ever comes down for real on wikilea

          • by jythie (914043) on Monday December 17, 2012 @08:56AM (#42313415)
            Which, given how critical access to their services is, is a pretty scary situation. We have a small number of private entities who get to decide who, essentially, has access to 'money' and who does not. They need no court order, and are often willing to do what the DoJ asks as long as the volumes are small....they will not cut off big spenders, but poor organizations that could never afford to take them or the government to court are easy targets..
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by DRJlaw (946416)

          IIRC the payment processors have performed this economic blockade without due process or a legal ruling, so to clobber this organisation would take a court hearing, which may be what EFF is angling for.

          Why would the payment processors have to provide due process or obtain a legal ruling? They're private businesses, not government agencies. The mere fact that they're large businesses does not mean that they are forbidden from behaving like any small business or individual -- if they do not want to do busin

          • by crazyjj (2598719) *

            They're private businesses, not government agencies.

            Funny, but that's not the song that Bank of America (among others) sings when it needs a government bailout. AFAIC, the entire banking structure of the U.S. is now a government agency. Too big to fail, you know.

            • by DRJlaw (946416)
              Irrelevant. The MasterCard and VISA networks are not banks. Bank of America is a client of the MasterCard and VISA payment networks.
          • by ultranova (717540) on Monday December 17, 2012 @10:13AM (#42313989)

            The mere fact that they're large businesses does not mean that they are forbidden from behaving like any small business or individual

            But it should. As it is, they wield orders of magnitude more power than a small business or individual, yet have no more responsibility. This is a recipe for disaster, and indeed we are all paying the bill for the utter irresponsibility of financial businesses right now.

            • by DRJlaw (946416)

              The mere fact that they're large businesses does not mean that they are forbidden from behaving like any small business or individual

              But it should. As it is, they wield orders of magnitude more power than a small business or individual, yet have no more responsibility. This is a recipe for disaster, and indeed we are all paying the bill for the utter irresponsibility of financial businesses right now.

              Not good enough. Where do you draw the line between large and small? How are you measuring power? You hav

              • by pla (258480) on Monday December 17, 2012 @12:06PM (#42315045) Journal
                Not good enough. Where do you draw the line between large and small?

                In 2010, Visa processed 3.2 trillion dollars per year. The US Federal gross receipts for 2010 came out to a mere 2.2 trillion dollars (receipts, not GDP which came to 14.5 trillion for that year).

                You want a line? When you single-handledly take in more money than the federal government, you cannot just say no. And more practically, I'd set the line quite a bit lower than that, somewhere around 3% of GDP, or roughly half a trillion dollars - Which would coincidentally "catch" both Mastercard (at 2 trillion) and Amex (at 700 billion).


                You have to actually think through these issues and justify the conclusion of why you apply the principle only to some and not to all

                The entire banking crisis (and don't give me that shit about the credit card companies not counting as banks - It may have a legal distinction, but We The People don't care whether you call it a striped horse or a zebra) came about because large banks/companies/dontcarewhatyoucallthem, with financial activity best described in percent of GDP rather than in actual dollars, had the freedom to screw around as though they functioned as small businesses. When MomCo bets the till on the ponies, MomCo goes under. When JP Morgan Chase effectively does the same, the whole goddamned stock market takes a dive and grandma's (not to mention, my) 401k edges lower and lower and lower...


                That pesky Fourteenth Amendment, you know...

                "All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."

                Sorry Mitt, but corporations ain't people.
                • by medcalf (68293)

                  Sorry Mitt, but corporations ain't people.

                  A long line of court cases disagree with you, and for very good reasons. (Including, for example, the ability to legally enter binding contracts.)

                • by DRJlaw (946416)

                  In 2010, Visa processed 3.2 trillion dollars per year. The US Federal gross receipts for 2010 came out to a mere 2.2 trillion dollars (receipts, not GDP which came to 14.5 trillion for that year).

                  They handled 3.2 trillion dollars in transactions in the same way that NASDAQ has handled 1.2 billion shares so far today -- NASDAQ does not own those shares, NASDAQ processes trades of those shares between buyers and sellers. VISA processes payments between you and the merchant that you handed the credit card to.

                  • by pla (258480)
                    The way you've used "We The People" ("We The People don't care..."), besides demonstrating amazing hubris on your part, distills down to mob rule. Until you develop a logical rationale and dividing line to support what you claim ought to be done, you can quite rightly be ignored.

                    If the banks (including the "payment processors", whether you like it or not) don't want to learn what "mob rules" really means, they really aught to join the winning side before the winning side lines them up and castrates them
                • by mysidia (191772)

                  Sorry Mitt, but corporations ain't people.

                  The courts have found that corporations are legally people born or naturalized in the United States. Their rights derive, from the fact that their shareholders are people, and the corporation is a legal structure called a "person". That is, a corporation is a kind of person borne out of its charter.

              • by ultranova (717540)

                Where do you draw the line between large and small?

                Any such line would be artificial. Instead, we should tighten the reins gradually.

                How are you measuring power?

                Total income + total spending + total assets should be a good enough estimator of economic power, or at the very least the potential amount of havoc caused if said power is abused.

                You have to actually think through these issues and justify the conclusion of why you apply the principle only to some and not to all.

                The principle should apply to all.

        • At the time this blockade was established, a senior Republican asked Geithner to add Assange/WikiLeaks to the SDN list. Fortunately Geithner refused, which makes it a purely private sector blockade. However you can imagine that had the Republicans been in power at the time, there would have been no such refusal, and it would now be against US law to transact financially with WikiLeaks, including for EFF. I don't think people realize how close WL came to being blacklisted like that.
        • by Luckyo (1726890)

          Current situation: US unhappy with organisation, so it puts unofficial pressure on payment processors for payment ban. Payment processors comply.

          EFF's idea: Increase amount of unofficial pressure necessary by making the fund for channelling funds. Idea is that political pressure necessary to get such a fund banned is much greater, and will exhaust political capital needed to put such pressure up very fast. It hopes to force US government to either take official way where EFF could assist with legal matters,

        • by Firehed (942385)

          They're private companies; they have every right in the world to restrict who they do business with - just as not anyone can walk into a bank and get a loan with equal terms for equal amounts, not everyone can get a merchant account to process credit card payments.

          The only thing it would take government intervention to legally stop would be cash donations. And given that the summary suggests the organization is more or less performing money laundering, that's a relatively likely outcome.

        • by Troed (102527)

          Join the club!

          Today, the Swedish Pirate Party filed formal charges against Swedish banks for their discrimination against WikiLeaks

          http://falkvinge.net/2012/12/17/pirate-party-presses-charges-against-banks-for-wikileaks-blockade/ [falkvinge.net]

    • by Beyond_GoodandEvil (769135) on Monday December 17, 2012 @08:24AM (#42313223) Homepage
      Even better, how long until some finds a way to use this new system to launder money, and then the feds will come down very hard on these folks.
      • by KiloByte (825081) on Monday December 17, 2012 @08:31AM (#42313259)

        Since its reputation is at stake, I guess the EFF will vet the organizations under its umbrella closely. So feds will come down hard, but won't at least be able to claim laundering.

        • The risk is they will anyway. Routing payments like that can potentially make you a "money transmitter" which requires absurdly expensive and complex licensing (in the USA at least). If you route money for 3rd parties without having a money transmitter license, you are ipso-facto a money launderer despite no other crime being committed.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by cdrudge (68377)

      There's nothing that prevents the credit card processors from refusing to process the payments. However unlike most of the organizations that have had trouble with processors in the past, the EFF is a legitimate charity with 501(c)(3) status with the IRS. It's hard to argue that an organization is engaging in illegal, questionable, or otherwise prohibited transactions on one hand, but have the government endorse it on the other.

      • I don't believe anyone argued WikiLeaks was involved in illegal business either. In fact it seemed pretty clear that they weren't. WikiLeaks also accepts payments through a charity (based in Iceland).
    • by 3seas (184403)

      What many posting don't seem to realize is that there are already legal action being taken..... but its not against the receivers of donations.... its against the credit card companies and those who commanded them to fail their purpose. The "Freedom of Press" organization is the straw that will break the jackass's (donkey for those who don't like the political incorrect term) back

    • by Jawnn (445279)

      What's to stop Visa and Mastercard from refusing to process payments to this new foundation?

      The FBI, probably, because as soon as someone with enough clout orders it done, The Freedom of the Press Foundation will be accused of "funding teh terrorists",or child porn... or heresy. Wait. What? That one's not illegal in this country yet?

  • by guises (2423402) on Monday December 17, 2012 @08:15AM (#42313183)
    Obviously, the immediate worry is that the Freedom of the Press Foundation will just get itself on the banned list and they don't seem to mention this in the article. Since this is a US organization it would also be subject to National Security Letters, they also don't address this...

    My enthusiasm is tempered a bit, but I think this is really encouraging.
  • I can say this for it, its convenient. A few simple slider bars and a very short and sweet payment entry form and your done. The one thing that annoys me is that 8% "Operating Cost" that is deducted from your donation. Seems a bit hefty to me, maybe after the site has been running a while (assuming it survives long as others have mentioned) it will come down.

    • by KiloByte (825081)

      The one thing that annoys me is that 8% "Operating Cost" that is deducted from your donation. Seems a bit hefty to me

      Credit card processing fees are hefty. Add legal costs that will surely follow, and you can expect this to go up not down.

  • They will piss off someone in Anonymous at some point, and they will take them down.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    It's like Tor for charitable giving.

    Excuse me, but if it were like Tor, it would be shuffling your donation around several times between a network of thousands of volunteers' accounts, hoping it will be passed on. This is just a proxy, pure and simple.

    • by idontgno (624372)

      Excuse me, but if it were like Tor, it would be shuffling your donation around several times between a network of thousands of volunteers' accounts, hoping it will be passed on.

      And also, a non-trivial number of financial agencies participating in the fund transfer chain will actually be owned by unfriendly government agencies which are monitoring transactions and building audit trails to de-anonymize stuff they don't like.

      See also the TOR Hostile Exit Node problem. [ironkey.com]

  • bitcoins (Score:4, Interesting)

    by vlm (69642) on Monday December 17, 2012 @08:42AM (#42313329)

    Sounds like they described the ideal business model for a bitcoin implementation. The EFF should accept bitcoins. Oh wait, they did, then the idiots stopped for no apparent reason.

    Looks like a anti-design pattern of "not invented here". My gut level guess is we're about to see the release of a BTC fork called "effcoins" or something dumb like that. Exactly like BTC but it'll have a different name.

    Don't get me wrong I'm a EFF cheerleader, love their goals and ideals, and I'm a past donator, they just really dropped the ball on this specific topic.

    • by guises (2423402)
      I'd guess that they stopped accepting bitcoins because they started receiving them instead of real money. It's all well and good to accept them as long as it doesn't impact regular donations, but if people start giving you something that volatile when they would otherwise be giving you something that you could definitely use it will hurt your organization.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Sounds like they described the ideal business model for a bitcoin implementation. The EFF should accept bitcoins. Oh wait, they did, then the idiots stopped for no apparent reason.

      Looks like a anti-design pattern of "not invented here". My gut level guess is we're about to see the release of a BTC fork called "effcoins" or something dumb like that. Exactly like BTC but it'll have a different name.

      They stopped accepting bitcoins because they started being questioned about its legality under the current banking laws. This is not their specialty, and probably never will be. They're about freedom of information over the internet, not freedom of issuing your own currency. You could argue that money falls under the "information" umbrella, but I'm sure that with they're limited resources they'd rather not take on the power of congress to coin money as outlined in the constitution.

      EFFcoins? Where'd THAT

      • by vlm (69642)

        They stopped accepting bitcoins because they started being questioned about its legality under the current banking laws. This is not their specialty, and probably never will be.

        Bringing us back to my main point, thats exactly what they're doing now, just with a patina of "not invented here"

        If you want to fight the law for the same reason as everyone else with the same goal, you'll probably do better going along with everyone else, rather than going it alone and pretending the greater community doesn't exist. You know, kinda like those CS and programmers and sysadmins who hang around the EFF instead of going it alone WRT freedom on the net.

        LOL what we need is a BTC union... that'l

      • by mysidia (191772)

        They're about freedom of information over the internet, not freedom of issuing your own currency.

        Perhaps some country could make bitcoins their official currency, and then the debate would be over they'd just be accepting "Country $X bitcoins".

  • Isn't anonymous donation the problem with the "SuperPAC"s?

    While I'm sure this will only gather penny ante donations, do they have rules for extremely large donations?
  • by erroneus (253617) on Monday December 17, 2012 @09:06AM (#42313457) Homepage

    Money is a medium that can be exchanged for goods and services. When government and, more significantly private enterprise, control who has access to money and by extension, goods and services, you will see right away the unbelievable amount of power that grants the parties who wield it.

    So when someone points out that oil is traded in US dollars, it's a huge deal. It means the US and especially the private federal reserve bank along with the exclusive powers such as master card, visa and the like have enormous power over pretty much everything. It goes a long way to explain how things got the way they are and why governments around the world are bending to the will of the US and the businesses within.

    This is only possible when the medium of exchange isn't based on something tangible... like gold or something like that.

    If terrorism is defined as using fear and intimidation and a terrorist is a party who uses fear and intimidation to get their way, then I think the terrorists are most easily identified by looking at who and what inspires the most terror. "The control the money! All of it!" Controlling money controls everything and that's pretty terrifying.

  • And how long will this really last before they're stopped?
    .
    How soon will it be before they get charged with secretly supporting terrorism by money laundering? Or to make it scarier in the internet domain, get charged with secretly supporting child prnography with these washed/laundered funding mechanisms? Isn't that why Visa and Mastercard jumped to quickly block funding?
  • I have a legal question I'd like answered by any Slashdot lawyers. Even the IANALs will suffice, just chime in if you have some insight.

    The EFF is a registered 501(c)(3) charitable organization. In order to avoid taxes on the donations, I assume this new Freedom of the Press Foundation (FPF) will also register as a 501(c)(3) or similar charitable organization.

    Now, here's the kicker. I know most charities operate by taking donations and using those donations to provide goods or services to their targe
    • by geckoFeet (139137) <gecko@dustyfeet.com> on Monday December 17, 2012 @10:25AM (#42314111)

      I'm the treasurer for a small 501(c)3 (ITT4AS501(c)3), not a lawyer, but here's what our legal counsel has told us in the past: we can give money to whomever we want provided that the "regrant" is to further the goals of the corporation, as set forth in the corporate charter that was approved by the state. Depending on how the charter was drawn up, that can be either pretty broad or really, really, really broad. There are a few limits - if you start embezzling large amounts, or if most of the proceeds of the organization wind up in the pockets of one person, then the IRS will come sniffing around. But regrants in general are absolutely permissible.

  • I wonder if a Political Action Committee could front the organization. Anyone know if that would work?
  • I'm concerned about the cost of privacy:

    "because the site is encrypted, donors who worry about being identified as giving to any particularly controversial group can do so without being identified."

    This sounds great except that it leaves a wide opening for mischief. How is this money accounted for?

    - - -

    consider this true tale of crime and abuse of trust:

    Our city has a well respected consumer organization created and run by a charismatic attorney. They've done a lot of good over the years and

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