Blatant racism! OpenSea and MetaMask block Iranian users amid growing U.S. sanctions

NFT trading platform OpenSea and MetaMask wallet have been accused of racism after blocing accounts of Iranian users following US Sanctions.
NFT trading platform OpenSea has banned Iranian users amid accusations of racism. Pic Credit: Canva

Key Takeaways

  • OpenSea and MetaMask have blocked Iranian users as the USA presses for stricter sanctions.
  • Users have slammed the NFT marketplace of blatant racism agains Iranians.
  • Users have come out to slam cryptocurrency trading platform Binance of a simmilar racist policy.

YEREVAN (CoinChapter.com) – Iranian users of the largest nonfungible token (NFT) trading platform OpenSea woke up to find that they could no longer access the platform.

As some collectors alleged, the platform had deleted or deactivated their accounts without any prior notice. Surprisingly, the popular soft wallet MetaMask, which people use to trade in NFTs on OpenSea, had also taken a similar decision. Shocked at the move, social media users have accused the company of racism.

Some traders have even rubbished claims of decentralization amid rising cases of selective targetting. In its defense, OpenSea has cited the U.S. Sanctions list to justify taking down Iranian-owned accounts.

Recommended: Man takes OpenSea to court over his stolen Bored Ape (BAYC) NFT.

OpenSea guilty of racism? It would seem so!

NFT collector and trader Bornosor was among the first to express his disbelief at the move. He owns various tokens from reputed collections such as Bored Ape Yacht Club (BAYC), Bored Ape Kennel Club, and Cool Cats. He is also the co-founder of Bored Punks Yacht Club, inspired by the two popular projects, CryptoPunks and BAYC.

“Woke up to [email protected] trading account being deactivated/deleted without notice or any explanation, hearing lots of similar reports from other Iranian artists & collectors. What the hell is going on? Is OS straight up purging its users based on their country now?”  

he wrote.

Many initially thought that OpenSea was targeting Iranian I.P. addresses. However, on closer investigation, we discovered this goes beyond that. Any creator or trader with Iranian heritage is currently paying the price. For OpenSea, it allegedly does not matter if you live in Iran or not. If the id you submitted while registering mentions the country, you are no longer welcome on the platform. 

“It is important to note that the ban isnt location/IP based. Theyre banning Iranians by blood,”  

Bornosor told CoinChapter. 

To demonstrate the point, he takes the example of Iranian artist Parin Heidari who lives in Europe. As a result, OpenSea has deleted her collection with more than 200 ETH (nearly $550,000) in her wallet, impacting users who had bought her NFTs.

Interestingly, Heidari was among the featured artists on the platform. OpenSea even mentioned her in a Tweet as one of the amazing women in the NFT space. 

Recommended: NFT collector places 101 CryptoPunks as collateral for an $8M loan.

OpenSea offers clarifications. What next for Iranians? 

Following the mass criticism, the NFT trading platform offered a clarification. Citing the U.S. sanctions list, OpenSea stated that they are only following the Government’s decision and blocking users from jurisdictions that are facing the brunt of the U.S.

“We’re truly sorry to the artists & creators that are impacted…We’re a US-based company and comply with US sanctions law,” 

the company tweeted.

Iranians are shocked that they have not received enough support from the “self-proclaimed decentralization maxis.” Instead of denouncing the blatant racism, some have done nothing besides pointing at alternative trading platforms. To Bornosor, the failure to criticize the centralized attitude is strange.

As a result of the move, many of those impacted will be looking to shift to other platforms. 

“Well, we still have Looksrare, Rarible and the new x2y2 platforms for trading. We’re hoping that exposing Opensea’s centralized behavior could potentially drive more interest toward those platforms,” 

Bornosor tells our reporter in an exclusive conversation.

Some users who are not impacted are also deleting their collections from OpenSea to support Iranian users. In addition, others are pointing out the urgent need for trading platforms outside the U.S. jurisdiction. If marketplaces follow U.S. sanctions, then any country could be the next target.

Recommended: Fans wait as Ronaldinho NFT collection misses launch date

Infura blocks MetaMask for Iranian users 

Besides OpenSea, Iranian users discovered that they could not use their MetaMask wallet due to the latest crackdown. The cryptocurrency wallet uses Infura to get information on and off of blockchains. Infura is a Web3 backend and Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) provider that offers blockchain developers a range of services and tools. 

As the company, just like OpenSea, follows U.S. sanctions policy, it has ceased providing services in certain countries, including Iran. As a result, Iranian users can no longer access their wallets.

The company released a blog post clarifying the situation.

“By default, MetaMask accesses the blockchain via Infura, which is unavailable in certain jurisdictions due to legal compliance,” 

MetaMask said in the blog post.

However, unlike in the case of OpenSea, the MetaMask ban is I.P. specific. Therefore, Iranians living outside the country or using VPNs can still access the services. 

Recommended: Does the NFT industry pose a threat to the global art market — experts weigh in

Et tu, Binance? 

It seems discrimination in the blockchain space is not limited to OpenSea or MetaMask. Even Binance, the largest crypto exchange, seems to be riding aboard the racism train.

As pointed out by another user on Twitter, the company’s support team blatantly told a user they could not use the platform if they had “Iranian blood” in them. The user was born in Iran but resided in Turkey.

“Sorry, I have tried to mention to you that if you are Iranian (meaning Iranian by blood), regardless if you reside in Turkey or not, we cannot provide service,” 

the message reads. 

The United States has imposed various sanctions on Iran since 1979, following the hostage crisis of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran. Other than Iran, there are 23 other countries on the U.S. Department of Treasury’s sanctions list.

It is unclear why Iranians have to face the brunt now amind the sanctions on Russia following its invasion of Ukraine. Perhaps the U.S. expects Vladimir Putin to seek help from Iranian financial institutions. Regardless of the reasons, the blatant discrimination against Iranians or any nationality is shameful, and people in the space should condemn it in the strongest possible words.

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Iranian, Blatant racism! OpenSea and MetaMask block Iranian users amid growing U.S. sanctions

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