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

timothy posted about a year and a half ago | from the follow-the-monkey dept.

Electronic Frontier Foundation 95

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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95 comments

DONOR DOLLARS NEED TO COME THIS WAY !! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42313169)

I want them donor dollars !!

well thats all fine and well until.. (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42313177)

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

Re:well thats all fine and well until.. (4, Insightful)

Nerdfest (867930) | about a year and a half ago | (#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.

Re:well thats all fine and well until.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42313645)

Almost no one outside of nerd circles knows who the EFF is and wouldn't bat an eye.

Re:well thats all fine and well until.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42314247)

Yes, if the ACLU started funding groups that were known to leak state secrets to enemies of the state they very well could be shut down, and the only people surprised by this would be the people that think it's okay and totally safe for absolutely everyone who hates the country to know about everything that the country is trying to do in secret.

Re:well thats all fine and well until.. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42315223)

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 'edgy' and 'illegal'. Wikileaks is of questionable legality (not to be confused with morality) and I imagine 'soon enough' the grand jury indictments will come out, meaning its gone to the range of 'enough evidence that a crime has been committed' in the eyes of 'your peers'. We can debate about whether the grand jury is generally just a tool of the prosecutor or not, but the anti-money laundering (AMA) legislation, patriot act etc in theory make the banks/etc legally liable. This is what Al-Qaeda did, except they were a lot smarter and less 'flaunty' about it utilizing multiple layers of indirection through chains of proxies, not just from you to the burnout in california to afghanistan or the peruvian embassy.

The amusing part is if I donate now and the government goes after them for funding something illegal and they're forced to disclose my details, I could potentially sue (and win) the pants off of the EFF, especially with the way they have it setup so that by default it distributes your donation sans 8% to all of the groups, meaning gramma might've wanted to fund the legal one and accidentally funded the legally guilty one.

Re:well thats all fine and well until.. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42316837)

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 a musket. Or that any religions established since the constitution don't get the same protections of those around before.

It's fundamentally the concepts that are supposed to be protected, not the media those concepts are exercised on/with.

Re:well thats all fine and well until.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42320127)

1) The first executive director of the EFF was from the ACLU. The ACLU work closely with EFF on a lot of issues.
2) This isn't actually a spin-off of the EFF. It just has some people in common.

Make sure you DON'T (3, Interesting)

Andy Prough (2730467) | about a year and a half ago | (#42315371)

Google "ACLU lawyer jailed". Wouldn't want to burst your bubble about the whole "untouchable" ACLU myth.

Re:Make sure you DON'T (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42321347)

Google "ACLU lawyer jailed". Wouldn't want to burst your bubble about the whole "untouchable" ACLU myth.

Well, I did. I'm curious about whether or not our arch-conservative judiciary are persecuting ACLU lawyers. However, in the first 40 hits only two actually made the claim that an ACLU lawyer was jailed. Most were articles that talked about lawyers and jail and contained statements made by the ACLU. One case was an ACLU lawyer who was arrested and pleaded guilty to possession of child porn. He not only pleaded guilty he stated "I am filled with contrition, remorse and shame." The other case proved, after a little more research, to be mistaken reporting. The lawyer was not, in fact an ACLU lawyer.

Re:Make sure you DON'T (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42322473)

It doesn't matter if he had plead guilty or not. His name was already ruined, his career over, and a defense pointless. Prosecutions are largely about emotion and this was obviously a slam dunk. Those who plead guilty don't voluntarily make these statements. They are made to get people lighter sentences. The sentencing is all about showing remorse. All this does in reality though is make people think the courts / policies are justified. They aren't.

Re:well thats all fine and well until.. (1)

joocemann (1273720) | about a year and a half ago | (#42318481)

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.

Spot the obvious problem (4, Insightful)

pjt33 (739471) | about a year and a half ago | (#42313179)

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

Re:Spot the obvious problem (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42313205)

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 to groups on the various proscribed organization lists. Granted, wikileaks isn't there yet, but well, this is a stupid idea thats going to blow up in a lot of peoples faces.

crazy idea, how about you mail wikileaks a damn check or money order.

Re:Spot the obvious problem (5, Insightful)

maroberts (15852) | about a year and a half ago | (#42313231)

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.

Re:Spot the obvious problem (1)

dwightk (415372) | about a year and a half ago | (#42313299)

Why would it take a hearing?

Re:Spot the obvious problem (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42314277)

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.

Re:Spot the obvious problem (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42313301)

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 wikileaks, there's a non-zero chance of me ending up in court with them as a collaborator, but youre not entitled to receive payments via mastercard et al. Add into this that the banks would just say they were doing due diligence to reduce their liability for processing money for what some would consider a criminal enterprise and then just point at HSBC.

I know of someone who was banned from the prepaid credit card networks because they make a decent living and travel a lot, which was too close to international money laundering for the banks; no inherent right to their services.

Re:Spot the obvious problem (5, Insightful)

jythie (914043) | about a year and a half ago | (#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:Spot the obvious problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42315203)

This is hands off regulation at its best.

Re:Spot the obvious problem (2, Insightful)

DRJlaw (946416) | about a year and a half ago | (#42313447)

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 business with someone, they cannot be forced to. You should research the term "concerted refusal to deal," and then consider that there must be an actual prospective agreement, not merely independent action, before someone can successfully attack a refusal to trade on antitrust grounds. Hence decisions like the recent EC decision [wikileaks.org] declining to go after the payment processors under competition laws.

The converse would be hilarious. Anyone boycotting a business or organization would have to provide due process and obtain a legal ruling that would permit them to refuse to trade with, say, Walmart. Hilarity ensues.

Re:Spot the obvious problem (1)

crazyjj (2598719) | about a year and a half ago | (#42313497)

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.

Re:Spot the obvious problem (1)

DRJlaw (946416) | about a year and a half ago | (#42313583)

Irrelevant. The MasterCard and VISA networks are not banks. Bank of America is a client of the MasterCard and VISA payment networks.

Re:Spot the obvious problem (2)

aztracker1 (702135) | about a year and a half ago | (#42317023)

Bank Americorp owns Visa and MasterCard

Re:Spot the obvious problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42317871)

Bank Americorp owns Visa and MasterCard

Citation need. Especially since the discussion links to an investment data page showing that VISA is publicly traded.

Re:Spot the obvious problem (1)

DRJlaw (946416) | about a year and a half ago | (#42320009)

Bank Americorp owns Visa and MasterCard

False. Both are publicly owned [morningstar.com] and publicly traded [morningstar.com] corporations.

Feel free to point out where BankAmericorp appears, or for that matter where anyone holds an ownership stake in excess of 10%.

Re:Spot the obvious problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42313739)

Payment processors like Visa and Mastercard are not banks. They are third parties that, for example, banks use to handle credit card transactions. That Bank of America took handouts has absolutely zero bearing on the fact that payment processors are private businesses and not government agencies. That's like saying because General Motors took government bailouts that the company who supplies them tires is a government agency. It's a fallacious non sequitur.

Re:Spot the obvious problem (1)

crazyjj (2598719) | about a year and a half ago | (#42325409)

RTFS, Bank of America is one of the processors cited.

Re:Spot the obvious problem (3, Interesting)

ultranova (717540) | about a year and a half ago | (#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.

Re:Spot the obvious problem (1)

DRJlaw (946416) | about a year and a half ago | (#42314077)

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 have to actually think through these issues and justify the conclusion of why you apply the principle only to some and not to all. That pesky Fourteenth Amendment, you know...

Re:Spot the obvious problem (4, Insightful)

pla (258480) | about a year and a half ago | (#42315045)

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.

Re:Spot the obvious problem (1)

medcalf (68293) | about a year and a half ago | (#42315855)

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.)

Re:Spot the obvious problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42318783)

There is a long line [wikipedia.org] of court cases [wikipedia.org] that say that corporations are like people, in certain ways. Not but all ways. And corporations do not enjoy all the rights of actual people.

Re:Spot the obvious problem (1)

DRJlaw (946416) | about a year and a half ago | (#42316449)

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. Since VISA falls well below [wikinvest.com] your arbitrary line ($3 billion in n.o.p, not exactly a ruler of the universe there), there's no problem, right?

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...

Repeat after me... payment processors are not banks. Payment processors do not issue mortgages. Payment processors do not issue CDOs. Payment processors process electronic payments.

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.

Sorry Mitt, but corporations ain't people.

For the purposes of entering into contracts, buying property, and the like, they are [wikipedia.org] . Since well before you were born.

Re:Spot the obvious problem (1)

pla (258480) | about a year and a half ago | (#42322157)

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 in front of their wives and children.

And pray we stop at that.

Jus' sayin'.

Re:Spot the obvious problem (1)

mysidia (191772) | about a year and a half ago | (#42320903)

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.

Re:Spot the obvious problem (1)

ultranova (717540) | about a year and a half ago | (#42335613)

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. That's the entire point.

That pesky Fourteenth Amendment, you know...

Kindly explain how my suggestion violates either the letter or spirit of it.

Re:Spot the obvious problem (1)

IamTheRealMike (537420) | about a year and a half ago | (#42314307)

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.

Re:Spot the obvious problem (2)

Luckyo (1726890) | about a year and a half ago | (#42314739)

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, or force the bar for the political pressure necessary to be too high.

Reality: Congress will probably pass legislation to make this pressure official and binding if this proves to be a problem in the way EFF envisions is, under the umbrella of "anti terrorism".

Payment Processors are Private Companies (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42315169)

Those payment processors have performed an economic blockade as private citizens. You can refuse to sell your car to person A & later sell it to person B. That's free trade. In most cases there's no due process or a legal ruling required since it's not a criminal prosecution.

Re:Payment Processors are Private Companies (1)

maroberts (15852) | about a year and a half ago | (#42315521)

Because of their stranglehold on the transaction market, it can be argued that they are a monopoly and perhaps subject to anti-trust legislation. Also the fact that they may have acted in concert may be deemed anti-competitive; there is plenty of legislation that the EFF can fight with. Admittedly it would be breaking new legal ground, but that hasn't stopped the EFF bringing such actions before.

Also by having a stranglehold on a particular market it is possible that you have a "right" to have your transactions processed, in the same way as internet access is in some countries, beginning to be seen as a right.

Re:Spot the obvious problem (1)

Firehed (942385) | about a year and a half ago | (#42317367)

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.

Re:Spot the obvious problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42313441)

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

How about you make a point without getting into the tinfoil hat paranoia?

There are plenty of examples of entities which are illegal to fund, all you have to do is look at the UN Trade Embargo list for examples. There's not a single government on this planet which does not list at least one country or organization as being off-limits for providing money to.

have gotten in a lot of trouble for providing material support to groups on the various proscribed organization lists. Granted, wikileaks isn't there yet,

Actually Wikileaks was made some type of Enemy of the State, which makes them off-limits for government and military people to get involved with. As of yet there's nothing making it illegal for private citizens to donate, however.

crazy idea, how about you mail wikileaks a damn check or money order.

If they had a published address, then that might work. But international mail is not exempt from being opened, diverted, confiscated, or otherwise tampered with. And in order for them to deposit the funds, they'll have to find a bank which your bank will transfer money to.

Finally, IANAL but I'm not sure how what they are proposing is not Money Laundering.

Re:Spot the obvious problem (3, Insightful)

Beyond_GoodandEvil (769135) | about a year and a half ago | (#42313223)

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.

Re:Spot the obvious problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42313245)

hehe; i didnt post the comment because of the 'you must wait X minutes between posts thing', but I point out that this is going to run all sorts of afoul of the money laundering legislation/patriot act. No one has to figure out how to use the new system to launder money, the service itself is money laundering.

Why does EFF always have the worst possible legal advice? Beginning to think they're all law school flunkies; digital ambulance chasers or something.

Re:Spot the obvious problem (1)

Talderas (1212466) | about a year and a half ago | (#42313417)

I was under the impression that money-laundering requires the initial funds be illegally obtained.

Since the funds are legal, this should not run afoul of money laundering. Of course it doesn't do anything to keep Visa and Mastercard from just blocking transactions to this umbrella corporations.

Re:Spot the obvious problem (1)

Immerman (2627577) | about a year and a half ago | (#42315241)

>Since the funds are legal, this should not run afoul of money laundering.

How do you assure this? If contribution routings are anonymized all you'll know for sure is that Group A contributed to the EFF. Those funds may be legitimate or not. Of course actual laundering would require the cooperation of the recipient organization, which hopefully the EFF would be alert against. As long as they only route funds to legitimate organizations there shouldn't be a problem.

Re:Spot the obvious problem (4, Insightful)

KiloByte (825081) | about a year and a half ago | (#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.

Re:Spot the obvious problem (1)

IamTheRealMike (537420) | about a year and a half ago | (#42314317)

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:Spot the obvious problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42313247)

If the donations are held in escrow, that would prevent short-term problems. Perhaps long enough to get a message through. On the other hand, I'd love to have an escrow account under my own control and make money off the float. 0.5% of $1 million is a decent paycheck for one person.

Re:Spot the obvious problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42313253)

Nothing.
But it is a more broad umbrella, and the guys setting it up may get some (unofficial/official) EFF support. This initiative will probably be supported much more by other press and the government will look really bad if they try to aide or help the block in any way.
This should be a deterrent for any bank to act on its own, as the press could retaliate with a severe media shitstorm. That would force them to collude, opening them up for cartel lawsuits.

Ofcourse, if the banks/gov want to block it anyway and persuade the rest of the press to shut up about it, nothing really bad would happen to the banks.

Re:Spot the obvious problem (2, Insightful)

cdrudge (68377) | about a year and a half ago | (#42313281)

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.

Re:Spot the obvious problem (1)

IamTheRealMike (537420) | about a year and a half ago | (#42314355)

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).

Re:Spot the obvious problem (1)

3seas (184403) | about a year and a half ago | (#42313509)

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

Re:Spot the obvious problem (1)

Jawnn (445279) | about a year and a half ago | (#42313547)

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?

This is a wonderful idea (5, Insightful)

guises (2423402) | about a year and a half ago | (#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.

Re:This is a wonderful idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42313291)

It took less than 10 minutes after the original announcement on Twitter for their account to be disabled/banned there...so this is a valid question.

Re:This is a wonderful idea (4, Informative)

3seas (184403) | about a year and a half ago | (#42313465)

This ban was an error on twitters part, sorta. Apparently they received a lot of complaints/flags (guess who would do that - your tax dollars at work?) You can now follow @freedomofpress I just did...

Re:This is a wonderful idea (1)

guises (2423402) | about a year and a half ago | (#42313549)

Let's not allow this to descend into conspiracy theories quite so quickly. There's no reason to assume it was the government complaining about this, there are an awful lot of rubes in the US who have defended censoring Wikileaks.

Re:This is a wonderful idea (1)

3seas (184403) | about a year and a half ago | (#42313575)

Ok, it was a promo trick.... feel better now?

Re:This is a wonderful idea (1)

guises (2423402) | about a year and a half ago | (#42314175)

I'm not sure that I follow. A promo trick by who?

What I was saying is that the government wouldn't need to engage in some sort of anti press conspiracy because there are plenty of people who will do it for them. Example:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2010/oct/26/wikileaks-fox-iraq-war-logs [guardian.co.uk]

Re:Why be a US organization? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42315199)

This EEF arm doesn't have to be a US organization. They can set up in any favorable country they wish. Why should Google & the multi-nationals be the only ones with mailboxes in the Caribbean?

Not quite (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42313237)

Funds from anonymous donors to companies providing (at best) an untracable service? Yeah, that's called money laundering. There are already boat loads of laws that this will run afoul of.

Convenient (1)

Dereck1701 (1922824) | about a year and a half ago | (#42313261)

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.

Re:Convenient (2)

KiloByte (825081) | about a year and a half ago | (#42313295)

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.

Anonymous will take them down (0)

jfdavis668 (1414919) | about a year and a half ago | (#42313267)

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

Re:Anonymous will take them down (1)

3seas (184403) | about a year and a half ago | (#42313477)

What site has Anonymous taken down that remained down?

Re:Anonymous will take them down (2)

VortexCortex (1117377) | about a year and a half ago | (#42316211)

Geocities.

Tor (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42313309)

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.

Re:Tor (1)

idontgno (624372) | about a year and a half ago | (#42315705)

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 (3, Interesting)

vlm (69642) | about a year and a half ago | (#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.

Re:bitcoins (2)

guises (2423402) | about a year and a half ago | (#42313563)

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.

Re:bitcoins (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42313607)

Just exchange the BTC to USD or EUR when they are donated, and the volatility you worry about is no longer an issue. Saying it will hurt the organization is just fud.
It doesn't matter if they receive 100 USD or X BTC which can be exchanged to 100 BTC. The end result is the same, but with Bitcoins you pay very low or no fees, and no risk of anyone blocking your payment.

Re:bitcoins (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42313627)

uhm, that should've read "X BTC which can be exchanged to 100 USD", ofcourse.

Re:bitcoins (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42314237)

So instead of transferring money to the EFF, people could give them play tokens which the EFF could then give away to other people in exchange for those people transferring money to them. That will simplify things.

Re:bitcoins (2)

Khashishi (775369) | about a year and a half ago | (#42314615)

Yeah, but then you want to find a Bitcoin exchange that is more trustworthy than Visa.

Re:bitcoins (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42314261)

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 come from? Geez I was going to ignore this post because of that comment, except that it stared getting modded up.

Re:bitcoins (1)

vlm (69642) | about a year and a half ago | (#42315647)

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'll go over real well here...

Re:bitcoins (1)

mysidia (191772) | about a year and a half ago | (#42320963)

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".

Bitcoin (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42313359)

Bitcoin is like Tor for charitable giving, or indeed any transfer of money. It seems like someone at EFF needs to do some reading.

Re:Bitcoin (2)

jythie (914043) | about a year and a half ago | (#42313433)

Bitcoin just moves the problem, it doesn't solve it. At some point the recipient organization needs to convert Bitcoin back into currency in order to make use of it. It looks like this project keeps things in currency but scrambles the source and destination... not sure that solves the problem either but it is not quite the same approach.

Re:Bitcoin (1)

JesseMcDonald (536341) | about a year and a half ago | (#42314791)

Bitcoin just moves the problem, it doesn't solve it. At some point the recipient organization needs to convert Bitcoin back into currency in order to make use of it.

In this case, moving the problem is a solution. The recipient organization does need to exchange Bitcoin back into some local currency (at least for now; more items are becoming available on the direct Bitcoin market all the time), but that exchange can take place in a different jurisdiction than the donor's, one with a friendlier relationship to the organization, and without involving VISA and its arbitrary rules.

SuperPACs (1)

Maximum Prophet (716608) | about a year and a half ago | (#42313365)

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?

This highlights a major issue doesn't it? (2)

erroneus (253617) | about a year and a half ago | (#42313457)

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.

Re:This highlights a major issue doesn't it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42315021)

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

Yeah, like gold isn't under control of the futures market, and of course government and banks would take no control of it if gold were to be used as a basis for money.

All that using gold as a basis for money will do is make money scarce (because gold is scarce) and thus cause poverty, drive up the price of gold due to high demand and very limited supply, and thus make gold traders happy.

Not to mention that there's no relation between the amount of gold on Earth, and the value of the economy (which dictates how much money is needed to keep the economy going).

Re:This highlights a major issue doesn't it? (1)

Immerman (2627577) | about a year and a half ago | (#42315505)

Scarcity is the only basis for the value of any money - look at the horrendous inflation that occurs when a government starts just printing money to cover it's expenses. What does it really matter if a $100 coin contains an ounce of gold or a gram, other than the gram is easier to carry.

What a tangible backing to money does do is make it more difficult to manipulate currency value - if you want to cause X amount of inflation (a common tactic to encourage investing and/or reduce the actual value of debts) you need to be able to steadily increase the amount of money circulating, and printing more fiat currency is a *lot* easier than mining more gold. Moreover it's under the exclusive control of a single organization, whereas gold supply is controlled by myriad organizations throughout the world.

And really it's not even limited to tangible currencies - any currency that can't be created at will has the same advantage - something like Bitcoin for example would be extremely resistant to manipulation, excepting by those who hoarded vast quantities that were early on. From what I've heard it has already had an influence on some of the unstable economies in the Middle East recently, where governments that attempted to use hyperinflation as it has been used in the past were instead faced with local currency being moved into the more stable bitcoins, making an end-run around the government's currency manipulation. And seeing how hyperinflation is one of those economic "weapons of last resort" in most government's arsenal, you can bet that many governments around the world started taking BTC seriously about then.

Re:This highlights a major issue doesn't it? (1)

BlueStrat (756137) | about a year and a half ago | (#42316223)

Yeah, like gold isn't under control of the futures market, and of course government and banks would take no control of it if gold were to be used as a basis for money.

But, gold is a real, tangible, physical good. In order to "take control" of it would require confiscating all private gold held by the population. Think about all the gold that's been widely sold over the last ten years and hidden away by "prepper" types and others that see a collapse of the financial system coming. Would make quite a stink for the Feds to start sending out the jackboots to comb through people's houses and property and confiscate it.

All that using gold as a basis for money will do is make money scarce (because gold is scarce) and thus cause poverty, drive up the price of gold due to high demand and very limited supply, and thus make gold traders happy

Gold and silver have been, for over 100 years, remarkably stable in value. Money that isn't tied to gold, not so much. A $20 gold coin from the 1800s still buys the same amount of goods and services today. In the 1800s a $20 gold piece would buy you a fine suit. The same coin will buy a comparably-fine suit today. Two silver US dimes would buy a gallon of gasoline in the early 1900s. The value of the silver in those same two dimes will still buy a gallon of gasoline today.

Taking a currency off the gold standard is simply a way for the government to inflate the currency and effectively steal monetary value from everyone holding and trading in that currency. It's an "invisible" tax on everyone holding/trading that currency. Suddenly, your money doesn't buy as much.

The series of "quantitative easing" actions by the US Fed is simply doubling- tripling- and quadrupling-down and accelerating this robbing of currency holders as the economy heads towards collapse. It will delay the collapse, but will make it worse when it does finally fall apart. TPTB are simply delaying while they shift their assets to protect them while sucking up all the wealth they can out of the economy before the SHTF.

I find it disturbing how closely the current events in the US are mirroring those of the Wiemar Republic, whose collapse paved the way for a guy with a funny mustache to stir up a bit of trouble.

But of course, things like that couldn't happen here. We're "civilized" now. Or is that "hypnotized" or "anesthetized"?

Strat

and how long will this really last? (1)

girlinatrainingbra (2738457) | about a year and a half ago | (#42313555)

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?

Can A Charity Give Away Its Money? (1)

Revotron (1115029) | about a year and a half ago | (#42313589)

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 target recipients. The Red Cross gives out meals and blankets to disaster victims. Family Planning charities hand out birth control to low-income women. But does the law allow them to just hand out cold hard cash?

This charity receives money from donors, and that's perfectly legal. But is it legal for them to turn around and distribute that money to third parties who are not registered charities themselves? Is it legal for them to disburse charity funds to a non-charitable business entity where no exchange of goods or services has taken place? Is it legal for them to disburse money directly to individuals?

I think if they play this too fast and loose they might find themselves out of money and out of a charity.

Re:Can A Charity Give Away Its Money? (5, Informative)

geckoFeet (139137) | about a year and a half ago | (#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.

Re:Can A Charity Give Away Its Money? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42315387)

I would consult another lawyer before I setup a 501(x) whose *sole purpose* is as a *money transmitter*/anonymous donation proxy for groups otherwise proscribed (whether by state or industry), doubly so if one of those groups ends up being found to have been operating an illegal enterprise.

They're betting that wikileaks will stay legal, and that even if they're convicted of anything that they won't be retroactively prosecuted (donations end on Jan-31). If any of those things are wrong or anyone decides to make an issue out of the anonymous aspect, they're potentially looking at money laundering and RICO prosecutions.

Anyone know if a PAC would get around this? (2)

bigsell (2578575) | about a year and a half ago | (#42314349)

I wonder if a Political Action Committee could front the organization. Anyone know if that would work?

danger of fraud, theft (1)

swell (195815) | about a year and a half ago | (#42323081)

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 many of us have donated to them. Last year we discovered convincing evidence that the founder has been skimming hundreds of thousands of dollars and engaging in other businesses with organization money, etc. The money trail is convoluted, obscured deliberately and through bad accounting practices. Much needed data has been destroyed. It is difficult to prosecute the offender without solid data. Good people are willing to carry on the work, but the organization is in legal limbo.

  - - -

EFF has earned a lot of respect, but donating under these double secret conditions is like putting your money into a black box, hoping it will get where it should. Accountability is critical but difficult under these conditions. It's a conflict between the openness we expect from businesses and the privacy we desire in these situations. The Open Source Community is perhaps in the best position to work out a model system. If so this concept could have wide acceptance not just for free press, but for free speech and more.

It's like Tor... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42333967)

It's like Tor...

But only 1 hop.

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