BERLIN - WikiLeaks has lost a major source of revenue when PayPal, the online-payment provider, cut off its account used to collect donations, saying the website was engaged in illegal activity.
The announcement also came as WikiLeaks is struggling to keep its website accessible after service providers such as Amazon dropped contracts, and governments and hackers still hounded the organization.
The weekend move by PayPal came as WikiLeaks' release of hundreds of thousands of U.S. diplomatic cables brought commercial organizations on the Internet that have business ties with the organization under more scrutiny.
WikiLeaks also is under legal pressure in several countries, including the United States, and a former colleague of founder Julian Assange has said he will launch a competing platform.
Donating money to WikiLeaks via PayPal was not possible anymore Saturday, returning an error message saying: "This recipient is currently unable to receive money."
PayPal said in a blog posting that cutting off WikiLeaks' account was prompted by a violation of the service provider's policy, "which states that our payment service cannot be used for any activities that encourage, promote, facilitate or instruct others to engage in illegal activity."
The short notice was dated Friday, and a spokeswoman for PayPal Germany declined Saturday to elaborate and referred to the official blog posting.
WikiLeaks confirmed the latest trouble in its Twitter account, saying: "PayPal bans WikiLeaks after U.S. government pressure."
WikiLeaks has embarrassed Washington and foreign leaders by releasing a trove of brutally frank U.S. diplomatic cables.
PayPal, a subsidiary of the U.S.-based online marketplace operator eBay Inc., offers online-payment services that are one of several ways WikiLeaks collects donations - and until now was probably the most secure and convenient way to support the organization.
WikiLeaks' PayPal account redirects users to a German foundation that provides the organization with the money. The Wau Holland Foundation, named after a German hacker, confirmed Saturday in a Twitter message that its PayPal account had been taken down because of the "financial support to WikiLeaks."
Wau Holland's vice president, Hendrik Heye Fulda, told the German daily newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung last month that WikiLeaks operates on a tight annual budget of about $200,000. Fulda could not be reached for comment Saturday.
Meanwhile, former WikiLeaks spokesman Daniel Domscheit-Berg announced plans to launch a more transparent platform on his own, the German newsmagazine Focus reported.
It will provide the technical infrastructure for anonymous postings and allow informants to choose themselves how and by whom to publish the information, Focus quoted Domscheit-Berg as saying.