The Arrest of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange on sex charges appears to have sparked a cyber skirmish as his supporters targeted government and private websites that have taken action against Wikileaks, before some the supporters’ own pages were taken down in return. The attackers, who call themselves Operation Payback, have in the past few days temporarily crashed the websites of the world’s two biggest credit card companies, PayPal, American politicians Sarah Palin and Joe Leiberman, and that of the lawyer representing the women who have accused WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange of sex crimes.
Anonymous, who is said to be heading up a campaign called “Operation Payback” (for more on what they’re about, check out the video below), is a loose collective of “hacktivists” who have allegedly been targeting sites such as Visa and Mastercard, companies that have ceased delivery of funds that had been donated to WikiLeaks. Last week, PayPal permanently restricted the account used by WikiLeaks “due to a violation of the PayPal Acceptable Use Policy.” In a blog post on Wednesday, PayPal general counsel John Muller said that the company’s “difficult decision was based on a belief that the WikiLeaks Web site was encouraging sources to release classified material, which is likely a violation of the law by the source.”
Wikileaks spokesperson Kristinn Hrafnsson told ABC News in an exclusive interview the refusal of service by Mastercard, Visa and Paypal amounted to an “outrageous” attack on freedom of speech. “We are seeing growing support for us, especially in the last few days when we’ve had these outrageous attacks on us by companies that are bowing to political pressure from political forces in the United States,” Hrafnsson said Wednesday. “We are getting seriously close to censorship in the United States and that must surely go against the fundamental values that the country is based upon.”
Due to political pressure and citing TOS violations, organizations from Paypal to Amazon Web Services began denying service to WikiLeaks. Operation Payback, which is said to be orchestrating these DDoS attacks, set about putting pressure of sites like these, as well as U.S. politicians who had made negative or even threatening remarks about WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, including Sarah Palin and Sen. Joe Lieberman this week. mid waning WikiLeaks support from companies in the U.S., Philadelphia startup Xipwire, a financial processing service, has agreed to handle WikiLeaks donations. “While people may or may not agree with WikiLeaks, we at Xipwire believe that anyone who wishes to support the organization through a donation should be able to do so,” said a note on its site. “We are waiving all fees so that 100 percent of the donations collected will be directly passed on to WikiLeaks.”
WikiLeaks editor Julian Assange, meanwhile, will remain in a London jail until at least December 14 after being arrested this week on charges of rape. Assange has denied any wrongdoing.