NFT exchange OpenSea has blocked accounts of Cuban artists and collectors from the platform in an effort to comply with U.S. sanctions laws.
OpenSea, Ethereum's largest NFT exchange marketplace, specifically targeted Cuban accounts a few months ago, around the same time the platform began disqualifying accounts from embargoed countries such as Venezuela, Iran, and Syria.
So far, more than 30 Cuban creators have confirmed that their OpenSea accounts have been cancelled. For Cuban artists, however, OpenSea's decision comes as no surprise. It follows a 60-year history of U.S. sanctions against the country. The order continues to be imposed in the digital age, with platforms like Zoom, MailChimp, WeTransfer, and Gitlab all cutting off access from within Cuba (even when using a VPN).
OpenSea representatives said:
"We are a U.S. company and therefore subject to U.S. sanctions, which means we are forced to block users in countries that are on the sanctions list."
The move is a blow to Cuban artists, who began participating in blockchain during the NFT boom in early 2021, a time that coincided with the peak of travel restrictions due to the pandemic, which deprived the island of its source of tourism revenue.
The NFTcuba.ART community is moving to alternative platforms, Foundation and SuperRare. However, being excluded from the market of 120 million visitors per month is too big a loss.
The ban was enforced in the context of budding NFT art in Cuba. Still, Cuban artist Gabriel Bianchin, owner of Hotel Havana, remains optimistic when it comes to the future of Web3:
"I'm still betting that this technology will bring freedom to countries like mine. It's not just about financial freedom, it's about creativity and freedom of speech."
The cryptocurrency community has also argued about legal interference in the decentralization of the industry when in August, the US issued a decision to sanction Ethereum mixer platform Tornado Cash. Subsequently, many of Ethereum's major DeFi projects proceeded to block wallet addresses that had been exposed to Tornado Cash.
DeFi projects registered in the US such as Uniswap or ConsenSys (Infura/MetaMask) have also adopted new user data collection regulations to comply with U.S. regulations.