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Philly mobile payment startup Xipwire collecting donations for WikiLeaks

Philadelphia-based mobile payment startup Xipwire announced on Tuesday it was accepting donations on behalf of WikiLeaks, the nonprofit media organization at the center of one of the biggest free speech controversies of our generation. By today, it finally was able to do what so many had not over the last 10 days--actually make contact with WikiLeaks. Xipwire co-founder Sibyl Lindsay told Flying Kite a WikiLeaks representative reached out to her firm and had what she termed a "nice, simple" interaction, in which WikiLeaks confirmed Xipwire's support of donations, thanked the company and arranged for transfer of funds.

When asked how many donations Xipwire has collected via text message for WikiLeaks, Lindsay indicated her company does not disclose financial information on behalf of any of the organizations with which it works.

WikiLeaks has drawn the ire of governments and corporations across the globe after it released thousands of U.S. State Department diplomatic cables and classified Pentagon documents last week. Late last Friday, PayPal froze the public donations it collected for WikiLeaks and announced its permanent suspension of the WikiLeaks account, and was subsequently followed by Mastercard and Visa. Meanwhile, free speech and media advocates have stepped up support and harsh criticism of the payment giants, including cyber attacks on PayPal.

While Xipwire, which aims to offer a more affordable and convenient way to spend and receive money online and via text, certainly counts PayPal and the credit card kings among its competition, its CEO Sharif Alexandre says his company's motivation was 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," he says.

Alexandre cited the landmark Supreme Court decision in the "Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission," which held that corporate funding of independent political broadcasts in candidate elections cannot be limited under the First Amendment and "basically equated donations with free speech."

"If the Supreme Court decided that our government doesn't have the power to regulate that speech then it's our opinion that corporation certainly shouldn't have that power either," says Alexandre.

Those who wish to donate $10 to WikiLeaks can text "WL" to "56624." One hundred percent of the donations received will be forwarded to WikiLeaks, says Alexandre.

Xipwire premiered its technology in a big way last May at the Rittenhouse Row Spring Festival and has most recently been working to bring text-to-pay into restaurant locations. You can read our timely and far less controversial update on Xipwire in this week's Innovation and Job News section here.

JOE PETRUCCI is managing editor of Flying Kite. Send feedback here.

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