In recent days, Iranian and Venezuelan users relying on MetaMask, the most popular Ethereum cryptocurrency wallet, and OpenSea, a non-fungible token (NFT) marketplace, announced on Twitter that they had been kicked off the platforms.
OpenSea and MetaMask confirmed that they were restricting access to users in countries sanctioned by the U.S. government, though Infura — a company hosting the Ethereum nodes that MetaMask relies on — pointed out that it had "accidentally" booted Venezuelan users after broadening its settings.
“OpenSea blocks users and territories on the U.S. sanctions list from using our services — including buying, selling, or transferring NFTs on OpenSea — and our Terms of Service explicitly prohibit sanctioned users or users in sanctioned territories from using our services," the company told crypto news site Decrypt.
"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,” OpenSea clarified.
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However, the recent geofencing issue has some proponents of Ethereum's decentralization concerned. The Ethereum blockchain is premised on the idea of a distributed network of individuals collectively taking control and overseeing decision-making, with no single central authority being able to dictate who can participate or how it runs. With the recent blocking of accounts in countries subject to U.S. sanctions, however, this premise collapses.
Social media was also inundated with news that some Venezuelans and Iranians lost access to the Web3 wallet MetaMask, which enables users to interact with the Ethereum blockchain. Guides surfaced directing users in those countries to access the Ethereum blockchain via MetaMask rivals, alternative wallets, and virtual private networks (VPNs).
On its support page, MetaMask put out a statement saying that it could not continue to provide access to its wallet "in certain jurisdictions due to legal compliance."