On 7 December 2010, the same day Julian Assange was remanded to prison without charge, an extra-legal banking blockade was erected against WikiLeaks – as a direct result of WikiLeaks' publications – by a number of US financial services giants including PayPal, Visa, MasterCard, Bank of America and Western Union.
More than 1,000 people took part in a harmless online protest against the blockade, which attempted to flood the PayPal website with network requests.
The banking blockade against WikiLeaks was subsequently found to be illegal in the European courts and most of the companies involved, including PayPal, Visa and MasterCard, have conceded defeat.
A number of the PayPal blockade protesters were charged by US authorities. For almost four years these protesters, most of whom had never engaged in a protest before, faced threats of imprisonment for what was by all accounts a harmless measure against extra-legal economic censorship.
The most well-known subgroup, the "PayPal 14", had a significant victory on Thursday, beating felony convictions and jail time.
Each will still have to pay $5,600 in "restitution", a figure drastically lower than the $5.5 million in "damages" that PayPal initially, and falsely, claimed. Supporters of the protesters, including the Wau Holland Foundation, have raised monies to defray these costs.
Stanley Cohen, a defence attorney for Mercedes Haefer, one of the accused, said last year that the terms of the plea deal were reached "based upon strength, not weakness; based upon principle, not acquiescence".
"It did not involve cooperation and did not involve any of the defendants renouncing their conduct. They all stood up and said: 'We did what you said we did... We believe it was an appropriate act from us and we're willing to pay the price'."
WikiLeaks' publisher Julian Assange said: "When I first heard about these protests against the financial censorship of WikiLeaks I was in prison, and this expression of popular will lifted my spirits. I know first-hand how grinding years of court cases can be, but also the pleasure in standing up for what you believe in. I encourage everyone to do what they can to help the PayPal 14 and others to get back on their feet as they clear these hurdles."
SUPPORT THE PAYPAL 14: http://thepaypal14.com/
DONATE TAX FREE WITHIN THE EUROPEAN UNION: https://www.wauland.de/en/projects/paypal14/