Demonstrations were planned yesterday to protest the detention of the editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks and the closing of the secret--spilling Web site’s Swiss bank account.
The Spanish-language Web site Free WikiLeaks says protests were to be held in Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia and Seville and three other Spanish cities. It also says demonstrations were planned yesterday in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, and in the capital cities of Colombia, Argentina, Mexico and Peru, as well as in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
“We seek the liberation of Julian Assange in United Kingdom territory,” the organization said on the Web site.
It urged protesters to gather at 6pm in Spanish cities.
Assange remains in a British jail ahead of a hearing on Tuesday where he plans to fight Sweden’s request to extradite him to face sex crimes allegations there.
The Web site also calls for “the re-establishment of the -WikiLeaks (wikileaks.org) Internet domain,” and the restoration of Visa and MasterCard credit card services to enable the “freedom to move money” because no one has “proved Assange’s guilt,” or charged -WikiLeaks with any crime.
Many US-based Internet companies have cut their ties to -WikiLeaks, including MasterCard Inc, Visa Inc, Amazon.com, PayPal Inc and EveryDNS. Those moves have hurt WikiLeaks’ ability to accept donations and support publishing efforts.
However, in what is being described as the first great cyber war, an online collision is unfolding between some of the world’s greatest brands and a little-known, poorly understood group of “hacktivists” trying to bring down companies from the comfort of their bedrooms in a show of support for WikiLeaks.
The hacker group behind the attacks goes by the name of Anonymous. This week it declared its goal to be “infowar” and said: “In war, there are bystanders that get hit.” However, the group said an attack on Amazon had not succeeded partly because they felt “attacking a major online retailer when people are buying presents for their loved ones [before Christmas], would be in bad taste.”
As the name suggests, Anonymous is not a group with high--profile members. Its composition is multinational: a 16-year-old Dutch boy was arrested this week on suspicion of bringing down the Web sites of MasterCard and Visa in support of WikiLeaks. The family computer he is suspected of using has been seized.
Meanwhile, online retailers have been reporting worrying shortfalls in their orders this week after hackers wreaked havoc with credit card systems. In one of the busiest weeks pre-Christmas, attacks on MasterCard, PayPal and Amazon have left many online merchants far short of expected sales.
Emma-Louise Ewing, owner of the Kitty Cat Boutique in Falkirk, Scotland, said she first noticed a problem on Wednesday, the day hackers sabotaged MasterCard’s Web site in revenge for its decision not to take donations to WikiLeaks.
“My credit card sales just dropped off to zero,” she said. “I know I’m a small business, but I do expect to get orders every day.”
At first, she thought the fall might have been related to the bad weather, which has been affecting deliveries all week in Scotland, but it was only when she started to receive payments by check in the mail that she realized the extent of the problem.
“I’m still getting the same number of Web hits I would expect at this time of year, but unfortunately nothing like the same volume of business,” she said.