Datacell, a website hosting company in Iceland and Switzerland, says it is under increasing pressure from outside sources including Visa and Mastercard, to stop hosting the whistle-blowing website Wikileaks. This despite the fact that it is just one of many companies hosting Wikileaks around the world, and that Datacell has thousands of other customers besides Wikileaks.
In an extended interview with Icelandic radio station RAS 2, Datacell’s founder Olafur V. Sigurvinsson said that Wikileaks.ch is hosted by Datacell in Switzerland and that donations to the site are processed by Datacell Iceland. According to DV, Datacell is now the only way to give to Wikileaks and even that company is now under pressure from Visa and Mastercard to stop accepting payments.
DataCell has since decided to start legal proceedings against the credit card companies for having broken their payment processing contracts, RUV reported Wednesday.
Sigurvinsson said that Datacell has been experiencing huge demand for Wikileaks.ch since the main site, Wikileaks.org (which it does not host), was closed down under immense pressure from site traffic and hackers. Amazon.com is also a website host which anybody can pay to use; but it famously recently stopped hosting Wikileaks.
Sigurvinsson said that he has not been following the Wikileaks story closely, because the site is just one of Datacell’s 3,000 customers. But, he added, his lawyers have not recommended Datacell stop serving the site and so he will do all he can to keep it running smoothly – just as he would for any customer.
Wikileaks.ch is not hosted in Iceland because of the high traffic to the site, as bandwidth to and from Iceland costs a lot. The Icelandic facility is therefore used more for data storage and the Swiss site for materials with high traffic.
Sigurvinsson told RUV he finds Visa and Mastercard’s request that Datacell stop serving Wikileaks highly distasteful, asking what business two private companies have dictating terms to another private company. If the company were to comply with the credit card giants’ demands, it could set a dangerous precedent.
If Mastercard and Visa carry out their threat to stop Datacell processing payments to Wikileaks, it would also affect the 3,000 other Datacell customers. Furthermore, Sigurvinsson added that since Amazon closed down its service to Wikileaks, Datacell has had a rush of Amazon-hosted companies wanting to move their websites over to Datacell because they simply do not trust Amazon any more, he said; because they are refusing to host a legal website.
Since the secret Iraq files were published on Wikileaks this autumn, the traffic visiting the site has consistently been higher than all the web usage in Iceland combined, Sigurvinsson said. Fully half of the bandwidth usage on Wikileaks comes from hackers trying to bring the site down – hackers largely based in the USA, China and Russia.
Sigurvinsson said that he has been working on the internet since its birth and has never seen freedom of information, business and politics interact the way they are now. It is interesting for the history of the internet, he said. But closing and restricting individual companies will never work.
He said that his lawyers believe Wikileaks has done nothing more illegal than releasing materials it has been send, “Why didn’t CNN do it?” he asks; adding that media organisations everywhere publish secret information they receive: it is their job.
“It is clear that they will never close Wikileaks except by taking the whole internet down,” Sigurvinsson said.