Wikileaks “Paywall” Angers Anonymous

Cash-strapped leak site Wikileaks.org has enraged Anonymous, the loose group of hackers that has been a key ally, by putting its latest release behind an apparent paywall that asks for a credit card donation before viewing the files.

This week Wikileaks began an election-themed drip release of over 200,000 emails from the private intelligence firm Stratfor, releasing thousands of emails a day referring to Obama, Biden, Romney and the Republican and Democratic parties.

But the Stratfor files are hidden by a splash page, featuring a video of Obama clips intercut with comments from Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, that appeared to require a donation before proceeding to the emails.

Wikileaks has been starved for funding after a financial blockade by banks and major credit cards, but recent court victories have allowed the site once again to receive credit card donations, and the “Vote Wikileaks” campaign was launched to take full advantage of that change.

The move provoked a furious backlash from Anonymous and allied groups, however, not least because the Stratfor emails were supplied to Wikileaks by members of Anonymous affiliate LulzSec who have since been arrested for that hack.

The Daily Dot reported that word quickly spread of work-arounds to avoid making a credit card donation, which some worried could be used to identify Wikileaks supporters:

Within an hour, the word went around Twitter that disabling JavaScript in your browser would get you around it, although that information was nowhere on the Web page. Other users reported that clicking to donate, then backing out before concluding the transaction, worked. Still others found that simply waiting (anywhere from ten minutes to an hour) exempted them from the importuning video. Others, that watching the video got you past it. And the Cryto Coding Collective released its own browser add-on specifically for the leaks.

Ars Technica noted that Wikileaks’ response to the backlash pointed out that the splash page wasn’t technically a “paywall” in the first place:

Justifying the call for donations, Assange wrote that the fund-raising was necessary to fund its “publishing and infrastructure costs,” and further to fund its legal action against the payment processors. WikiLeaks’ Twitter account also said that an overlay that allows you to share, tweet, or wait—or pay—isn’t a paywall anyway.

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