OpenSea Updates Banned Countries List, Sparking Decentralisation Debate

March 08, 2022, 10:45 AM AEST - 3 months ago

OpenSea, the world’s largest NFT marketplace, has updated its list of banned countries according to the US sanctions list and has many bringing up the issue of decentralisation.

US-based OpenSea has reportedly begun barring Iranian users from its platform, which has led to outrage from NFT collectors and sparked a fresh debate regarding decentralisation in the crypto space. The list has expanded since last week, adding Iran to the list after only users in separatist areas of Ukraine were banned, along with users from Venezuela who were added to the list in error.

The Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) of the US Department of the Treasury administers and enforces economic and trade sanctions based on US foreign policy and national security goals against targeted foreign countries and regimes, terrorists, international narcotics traffickers, those engaged in activities related to the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and other threats to the national security, foreign policy or economy of the US.

US Office of Foreign Assets Control

Iranian Artist Vents to 4,700 Followers

Last week, Iranian users of OpenSea woke up and started posting on Twitter that their accounts had been deactivated or deleted without prior warning from the platform. “Bornosor”, an NFT artist from Iran, vented his frustrations to 4,700 followers in a tweet that gained traction very swiftly, garnering 342 retweets and 1,000+ likes within just a few hours:

According to an OpenSea spokesperson, OpenSea reserves the right to block users based on sanctions:

“Our terms of service explicitly prohibit sanctioned users or users in sanctioned territories from using our services. We have a zero-tolerance policy for the use of our services by sanctioned individuals or entities and people located in sanctioned countries. If we find individuals to be in violation of our sanctions policy, we take swift action to ban the associated accounts.”

As it stands, current US sanctions outline that American companies are not allowed to provide goods or services to any users based in countries on the sanctions list, including Iran, North Korea, Syria, and now also Russia:

Actions from OpenSea Provoke Decentralisation Debate

The actions taken by OpenSea have fostered new debates about whether large blockchain-based firms and services are adequately decentralised, with the MetaMask wallet joining in on enforcing sanctions:

According to MetaMask’s Twitter account, Venezuelan users were accidentally banned from accessing their wallets after blockchain development company Infura inadvertently broadened the scope of its sanctions to the South American country.

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