Cryptocurrency wallet Metamask and Non-fungible-token (NFT) marketplace OpenSea are banning all accounts based in the sanctioned countries the US government. This development comes as the US and its allies imposed sanctions on Russia following Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.
It should be noted as of now both Metamask and OpenSea NFT marketplace are currently functioning in Russia. However, Iranian and Venezuelan users have been dropped off from the platforms. Both the countries are currently sanctioned the US government.
“OpenSea blocks users and territories on the US sanctions l from using our services, including buying, selling, or transferring NFTs,” OpenSea NFT marekplace said in a statement. Touted as the largest NFT marketplace, you can find digital art, there are collectibles including game items, domain names, even digital representations of physical assets at OpenSea. Essentially, the platform is like an eBay for NFTs with millions of digital assets organized into hundreds of categories.
Iranian users on OpenSea alleged that their accounts have been deleted, with some NFT arts even claiming that the platform has also deleted their NFT collections without any prior intimation or notice. “Woke up to my @opensea trading account being deactivated/deleted without notice or any explanation, hearing lots of similar reports from other Iranian arts & collectors,” a twitter user said.
Parin Heidari, another Iranian art who claimed her work was deleted OpenSea, said the marketplace was punishing her for her government’s actions, writing, “I am an Iranian art not not [sic] Iran’s government,” she tweeted.
This move has sparked outrage and questions over the decentralised system that crypto offers. Another twitter user who goes the name Khashayar sharifaee posted on Twitter: “I saw #OpenSea and #Metamask blackling and shutting down users on the sanction l.(countries like Iran, Cuba, Syria and so on) This was not the decentralized system! This was not the deal!”
Venezuelan users have also reported they were no longer able to access MetaMask—one of the most popular crypto wallet that holds cryptocurrency and NFTs. In a statement to CoinDesk, MetaMask’s parent company, ConsenSys said that it observes US.sanctions on “Iran, North Korea, Cuba, Syria, and the Crimea, Donetsk, and Luhansk regions of Ukraine.”
Crypto exchanges grapple to comply with US sanctions
Changpeng Zhao, CEO of cryptocurrency exchange Binance told Bloomberg that it is freezing the accounts of Russians targeted international sanctions. However, the exchange will not keep all Russians from accessing its platform. “Binance follows sanctions rules very strictly. Whoever is on the sanctions l, they won’t be able to use our platform, for whoever is not, they can,” Zhao said in an interview. Expanding restrictions beyond the l of sanctioned individuals would be “unethical for us to do,” he added.
Another crypto exchange, Kraken has also refused to freeze Russian accounts. Kraken CEO Jesse Powell said that “if we were going to voluntarily freeze financial accounts of residents of countries unjustly attacking and provoking violence around the world, step 1 would be to freeze all US accounts.”
Meanwhile, popular crypto exchange Coinbase also confirmed that they are not considering banning all Russian users from their platform. “We are not preemptively banning all Russians from using Coinbase. We believe everyone deserves access to basic financial services unless the law says otherwise. Some ordinary Russians are using crypto as a lifeline now that their currency has collapsed. Many of them likely oppose what their country is doing, and a ban would hurt them, too,” Coinbase said in a statement.