- Associated Press - Thursday, December 9, 2010

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - A tech startup based in Philadelphia says it is taking donations for WikiLeaks, after several U.S.-based companies cut ties to the website in the face of government pressure.

Mobile-to-mobile payment provider Xipwire (pronounced Zipwire) says on its website that “while people may or may not agree with WikiLeaks … anyone who wishes to support the organization through a donation should be able to do so.”

“The decision was a combination of our core business, which is processing payments, and our personal politics, which is don’t get in the way of letting people make decisions for themselves,” Xipwire co-founder Sharif Alexandre told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

Customers begin the payment process by creating an account on Xipwire’s website and linking a cell phone and credit or debit card. Consumers and merchants can then send and receive money via text message.

While he declined to release specifics, Alexandre said hundreds of people have donated thousands of dollars in all since Xipwire announced Tuesday that they were taking donations for WikiLeaks.

The announcement comes after MasterCard Inc., Visa Inc. and eBay Inc.-owned PayPal all stopped facilitating donations to WikiLeaks, and Amazon.com Inc. stopped hosting the site.

Alexandre said he was “taken aback” by the number of companies that severed their relationships with WikiLeaks, and pointed to a landmark Supreme Court ruling this year that gave unions and corporations a greater voice in politics.

“When you look at the Citizens United ruling, where the Supreme Court associated donations with free speech, I thought, ‘It’s just not right,” he said.

After some deliberation, he and co-founder Sibyl Lindsay decided to open their site up for WikiLeaks donations.

So far, though, they have not been able to make contact with anyone from WikiLeaks, so the money they’re raising is being held in an escrow account, Alexandre said.

He said he has not been contacted by authorities but conceded that there “might be some pushback.”

“Our job is enabling the transaction to happen,” he said.

Xipwire said it is waiving all fees so that 100 percent of the donations collected will be directly passed on to WikiLeaks.

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