Philadelphia mobile payments firm steps up for WikiLeaks

Xipwire creates page for supporters of whistle-blowing site to donate, will waive fees

A co-founder of a mobile payments firm based in Philadelphia that volunteered to help people give money to WikiLeaks after PayPal ceased processing donations to the whistle-blowing organization says it has handled thousands of dollars in contributions in a just a few short days.

Sharif Alexandre, who founded Xipwire, Inc. with Sibyl Lindsay, also told ITworld Thursday that "the overwhelming majority of comments (received by the company) have been extremely supportive, and not just in the U.S., but internationally."

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While Alexandre said he couldn't offer specifics regarding the amount of money Xipwire has processed for WikiLeaks, "We've had hundreds of users come to the site and donate thousands of dollars. It's been a significant response."

Xipwire, an angel-funded start-up that launched early this year, announced Tuesday that it would process donations for WikiLeaks in the wake of a decision by online payment processing giant PayPal to cut ties with the non-profit organization under pressure from the U.S. government.

WikiLeaks has sparked a firestorm in recent weeks by releasing hundreds of leaked U.S. State Department documents. The organization says it has more than 250,000 other classified memos in its possession and says it will continue to release them to several news organizations and post them on the Internet.

In an effort to silence WikiLeaks, the U.S. government has pressured private companies to cut business ties with the group. In addition to Paypal, a number of U.S. companies have complied, including Amazon.com, MasterCard and Visa.

In explaining Xipwire's decision, Alexandre told Raw Story in an email:

"Our motivation is really simple. While people may or may not agree with WikiLeaks and the documents it has released, we feel that PayPal's recent decision to refuse to process donations on their behalf effectively silences voices in this democracy. In fact, it was the Citizens United case that basically equated donations with free speech and if the Supreme Court decided that our government doesn't have the power to regulate that speech then it's our opinion that corporations certainly shouldn't have that power either."

In a phone interview, Lindsay told Raw Story:

"We do think people should be able to make their own decisions as to who they donate to. The fact that people can't donate to where they'd like to and make that decision for themselves does bother us."

Alexandre on Thursday reiterated to ITworld that Xipwire's decision isn't about WikiLeaks mission or any political agenda.

"We're a mobile payment company and we work with a lot of non-profit organizations," he said. "We saw it as a void that was created by these (other payment processing) companies stepping away from WikiLeaks."

Be that as it may, given the fierce demonization campaign against WikiLeaks -- led by the U.S. government and much of the mainstream media -- Alexandre and Lindsay's decision to process donations on behalf of the vilified organization couldn't have come easy. Yes, it's a business opportunity, but it still took courage, in my opinion.

Current Xipwire users can make donations via text message. Non-account holders can visit this page to learn how to donate. Xipwire says it will waive all fees for WikiLeaks donations.

Chris Nerney writes about the business side of technology market strategies and trends, legal issues, leadership changes, mergers, venture capital, IPOs and technology stocks. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisNerney.

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