On Monday Torrent Freak reported that, after three years of service to the organization, PayPal has frozen the funds of PRQ, an ISP founded by The Pirate Bay's Fredrik Neij and Gottfrid Svartholm. Earlier this month, sources also reported the suspension of the Twitter account of Anonymous Sweden (@AnonOpsSweden). Anonymous, which supports WikiLeaks, is allegedly responsible for numerous high-profile computer hacks.
Since the Stockholm-based web host PeRiQuito AB, or PRQ, was created in 2004, it has had a public policy that it will host and defend any website that is legal in Sweden. Boasting "no-questions-asked" customer service, PRQ even accepts cash payments to ensure the anonymity of website operators. "Generally we don't know who our customers are," says PRQ's owner Mikael Viborg. "By Swedish law, we're not required to." Viborg adds: "We don't cooperate with the authorities unless we absolutely have to." This approach has garnered the ISP the business of many controversial websites, including WikiLeaks. It has also attracted the attention of authorities. PRQ has been repeatedly raided by Swedish law enforcement -- most recently this October, when authorities confiscated four of the company's servers and took down dozens of sites. In 2006 police took 180 servers in an investigation of The Pirate Bay (reportedly, The Pirate Bay is no longer hosted by PRQ).
Now, according to PRQ, twice this month PayPal froze the ISP's primary account without notice or explanation. After contacting the company upon the first freeze, PRQ explained to PayPal that it needed to receive funds pending resolution of any account issue, and asked PayPal for an alternative means of processing payments. According to PRQ, in response, "PayPal stated that we just had to open a new account to receive funds until the primary account problem was resolved, and once it was resolved they would merge the two accounts ... So we started a second account, and that got frozen too so that we could not withdraw the funds ..." Then PayPal advised PRQ that it would block all funds in the primary account for up to six months. At that point, the ISP decided to "discontinue PayPal forever." Currently the company is establishing a Visa/Mastercard merchant account; meanwhile, the ISP is accepting payments via Bitcoins and bank wire transfers.
Sources also reported the suspension in December of the Twitter account of Anonymous Sweden.
Stating that it only disseminates news, Anonymous has characterized the closure as censorship. The group asserted:
"Anonymous is ... a strong voice for free speech globally. ... The AnonOpsSweden twitter account is a highly regarded and earnestly followed news account thus there is no valid reason for a twitter suspension, either now or in past! Reporting events that have taken place is not a crime. The account was not, and has not to date, been used for any criminal purposes. ... This is a matter of free press as well as free speech."
According to company policy, Twitter does not comment on individual account suspensions. However, as noted by the newspaper Expressen: "It is relatively common that Twitter shut down the accounts, but then it is usually for those that are considered spam. It is less common to close accounts that can be considered subversive or politically sensitive."
The following is an excerpt from a statement by AnonOpsSweden in response to Twitter's suspension of the group's account:
"Twitter's arbitrary censorship threatens free speech
"On November 24th our twitter account was suspended by twitters support. On November 27th, the day Swedish media wrote about this event, we got the first email from twitter in response to our suspension. Their answer to the reason for our suspension is confusing to say the least. They refer to a tweet whereby we shared a link to a hacked website. The twitter account which tipped us off about the hack has also been suspended.
"What we do is report to our followers about injustices in the World. We spread news about the Anonymous collective and other related news that may be of interest. We have done this and it is now also why we have been suspended.
"The alleged breach of contract is to have shared information from a third party, in this case, a link to a hacked Spanish right-wing website. ...
"The only thing that was done was to forward events from a third party, which reasonably is covered by the right to freely notify media, or equivalent in each country with good journalistic practice. The problem is not that we have been suspended, but the incredible power that Twitter has on the public debate. Sure, we have accepted twitter TOC but when a private company has such power over the public debate another part of society has failed.
"Twitter has proven to be a very good platform for the dissemination of news around the World and the subsequent debate. This is something we strongly support, but as the owner of this platform, they must take the responsibility that comes with it and ensure any reports of abuse are handled in a reasonable manner and within a reasonable time frame. ...
"See also, 'UN Convention on Civil and Political Rights' Article 9, paragraph 2?, which guarantees that, if arrested, you are to be immediately informed of the reason for this. Suspension from internet platforms such as Twitter, in that they now have to be considered as part of the public sphere is essentially the same results as an arrest as well as arbitrary censorship. ...
"The fact that even our backup account was blocked with no links to hacked websites published is reminiscent of censorship."
Anonymous has called for a tweetstorm against Twitter CEO Dick Costolo. Meanwhile, the international group still has a Twitter presence, including the Swedish account @AnonNewsSweden and the global account @YourAnonNews.