To the Web3 Farsi-speaking community

To the Web3 Farsi-speaking community:

We see you. We hear you. I wish we could help.

For those of you of Iranian heritage or based in Iran - your government and our gov don’t get along. That’s not your fault as individuals. That doesn’t mean that you don’t deserve human thriving.

But it does mean that Gitcoin Core, or any US based entity, is legally prohibited from allowing your grant to be live on our platform. If your project is not at risk of violating sanctions, then please educate us with supporting documentation. If that’s not feasible, I understand your frustration with Gitcoin & that you have to move on…

Our vision is to build & fund digital public goods to a diverse global community, and last week our vision collided with reality & we came up short. We are extremely saddened by this situation and the effects it has on you, the community we set out to serve. I hope that we continue to engage on this matter, and I welcome your feedback & comments below.

In gratitude,
@owocki
Official response from @gitcoin here

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Oh, and I invite you to read some of the writing I’ve done since listening to your feedback last Thursday.

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The main issue caused by Gitcoin decision on this matter, is that it set a precedent on how to deal with anything that has the keyword “Farsi” in the ecosystem, no matter what the context is.

Here’s the recent example of our POAP request being bluntly rejected :broken_heart:. This POAP was created to thank our Gitcoin and Giveth funders for their support and is not aimed at any specific nationality nor geographical location.

A few of the known entities that are in the recipients list of this POAP request:

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A few links to give context on the stories surrounding this issue:

CoinDesk - ConsenSys Suddenly Bars Iranian Students From Ethereum Coding Class

CoinDesk - Another Ethereum Education Initiative Hampered by Iran Sanctions Fears

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That is just not true. You are speculating.

The grant had 13 references to the word “Iran” in it, and implied heavily that funds would be sent to sanctioned nations.

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This was not a respond I was expecting, as I thought to bring this subject back to this topic to have some constructive conversation and continue to engage on this matter.


First to address the point you raised, which I don’t find any useful to go in, but let’s entertain:

Here’s the grant page in question, AFAIK nothing was changed in the text except the Update on top regarding Giveth and DGrants update.

Title: Free Smart Contract Development Course for Farsi Speaking Communities

I see 8 mention of the word “Iran”:

  1. website: https:// smartcontract . coiniran . com
  2. This opportunity, organized by the non-profit educational organization “CoinIran”’s founder Bahar
  3. Women in Blockchain’s Founder Thessy Mehrain (also ½ Iranian), was designed to teach all the fundamentals of smart contract development.
  4. This indeed was huge for us. Participating in an international course, coming from Iran, enabled us to overcome …
  5. … some of the everyday challenges imposed on Iranian society.
  6. The Farsi-speaking community has a population of more than 120 million, located in West Asia in Afghanistan, Tajikistan and Iran.
  7. Moreover, heavy sanctions imposed on Iranian citizens has limited them from accessing most social media platforms via geoblocking and even blocking educational platforms, in this way making it difficult to gain access to accurate and up to date education content.
  8. In this year’s ConsenSys Academy Ethereum developer bootcamp, we were able to sponsor 65 Farsi speaking individuals (45 from Iran and 20 from Afghanistan).

And regarding the second part:

Here’s the line regarding compensation from the grant page:

Please support us in our mission! Not only will your funds help ensure that our volunteers get fairly compensated for the hard labour they put into managing and maintaining this course, but it will also help ensure that the course content and materials stay accessible and free to everyone!
Let’s build a more equitable future by ensuring that everyone - regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, and geographical location - can benefit from blockchain.

This was speculated that the volunteers are in “sanctioned nations”. The volunteers are a combination of known actors living in countries such as Canada, Netherland, Armenia, and Afghanistan.


The issue is not with the grant’s nitty gritty details, but more so how this was handled by Gitcoin and what the ecosystem learned from it (and took away from it).

Now my question from anyone reading this, how can a constructive dialogue be established to deal with this sensitive matter? Consider that this decision is affecting millions of innocent people that have a lot of hope in the dream of decentralization…

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Consider that this decision is affecting millions of innocent people that have a lot of hope in the dream of decentralization…

We have considered this, and I believe my OP addresses the amount of understanding we have for the gravity of this issue.

Now my question from anyone reading this, how can a constructive dialogue be established to deal with this sensitive matter?

First, you can please stop spreading misinformation that Farsi language grants are not allowed on the platform. (they are). Grants that create legal risk for the Gitcoin community by implying they send money to sanctioned nations (or actually sending funds) are not. Grants that break the law are not.

From there,

  1. if there is a grant that has attained an exception to the sanctions, they can email proof of this fact to legal@gitcoin.co
  2. if you believe that the law is unfair or unjust, you can lobby the government (who is coercing Gitcoin to not host the grant) to change the law.

Here’s the grant page in question, AFAIK nothing was changed in the text except the Update on top regarding Giveth and DGrants update.

I have in my notes that there were 13 references to Iran back at the time this grant was disabled.
Perhaps the grant has been edited by its author since it was first posted - I do not have the cycles today to restore a DB backup to find out if it has or not.

Regardless of whether there was 8 references to Iran or 13, the Grant’s implied support for those in sanctioned nations creates legal risk for Gitcoin’s community as interpreted by Gitcoin’s General Counsel. We’ve invited the community a number of times to email legal@gitcoin.co if they have attained an exception to sanctions and have not yet received an inquiry that meets the threshold set by our legal counsel.

I can appreciate & understand the community’s frustration that our legal counsel’s guidance about EXACTLY where the line is is not clear. Our legal counsel is also operating in an environment in which the letter of the law does not explicitly spell out EXACTLY where the line is, so I hope the community can understand & appreciate the constraints that our legal counsel is operating under.

The issue is not with the grant’s nitty gritty details,

Maybe it’s not an issue for you, but it is for people who bare legal risk because of a grant’s nitty gritty details.

The US government has already shown they are more than willing to jail those web3 enthusiasts who violate sanctions.

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No. Sorry but it does not.

I understand your frustration with the narrative going around, and I’m going to try to correct anyone that is saying so.

Unfortunately the community does not have the resources to hire lawyers to deal with your request as far as I know. I know some groups tried but no western lawyer wants to touch the subject of crypto, sanctions and for sure something involving both of these subjects.

Here is one resource discussed on Twitter and other circles:

OFFICE OF FOREIGN ASSETS CONTROL - Iranian Transactions and Sanctions Regulations - Mainly discussing (3)

Thanks Kevin for engaging in this conversation, I believe there’s no one at fault here but we should make sure we put forward the best practices for the decentralize web we believe in, same as what you are doing for public good at Gitcoin.

Hope to have a friendly conversation over some drinks at EthDenver with you :slight_smile:

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same! while we disagree on a handful of the finer points of this issue, i think you are a good & genuine person and respect (1) your contributions to the space and (2) your right to disagree with me.

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I see the only path forward here - is that the proposal must be very specifically for the Farsi speaking community OUTSIDE of Iran.

The language of the proposal creates huge liability for Gitcoin and members of it’s community. Any of the objectives of the grant, it’s affiliates and creators cannot have anything to do with directly providing support to Iranian citizens or companies. In fact the language would need to reflect that it is specifically for the Farsi speaking community outside of Iran. A good example of this is the crypto news website CoinIran - part of their mission is:

  • Providing specialized personnel in the field of blockchains and cryptocurrencies

  • Providing advice and support to Iranian projects and start-ups in the field of blockchain

This clear language is a smoking gun that prevents people in the western world from supporting or participating. I didn’t dive anymore deeply into the other founders and creators of the grant.

In order to have any chance of making this dream a reality - there has to be careful consideration put into protecting the Gitcoin community and platform. That means taking measurable tangible steps to distance yourself from any organization or people who are interested in Blockchain to circumnavigate the sanctions against Iran, Iranian nationals or organizations, or other individuals or groups that express a desire to teach blockchain technology to people in Iran.

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Update: In the past week U.S. Treasury Issued a General License D-2 to Increase Support for Internet Freedom for Iranian users.

A few authorized transactions based on GL D-2 article:

  • (1) Fee-based or no-cost services. The exportation or reexportation, directly or
    indirectly, from the United States or by a U.S. person, wherever located, to Iran of fee-based or
    no-cost services incident to the exchange of communications over the Internet, such as instant messaging, chat and email, social networking, sharing of photos and movies, web browsing, blogging, social media platforms, collaboration platforms, video conferencing, e-gaming, e-learning platforms, automated translation, web maps, and user authentication services, as well as cloud-based services in support of the foregoing or of any other transaction authorized or exempt under the ITSR.
  • Provides additional authorization for the services that support the communication tools to assist ordinary Iranians in resisting repressive internet censorship and surveillance tools deployed by the Iranian regime.
  • Removes the condition that communications be “personal,” which was resulting in compliance burdens for companies seeking to verify the purpose of communications.
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This is huge! What impact does this have on how things are done here at Gitcoin?

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This is huge indeed.

I was hoping to get some updates from Gitcoin or see an initiative regarding opening up this discussion. Specially the fact that the suspended users here are Iranian women working on educational material that can save millions of people from oppression.

We should do better than web2 not worst. :frowning:


For context:

Last week Iran’s “morality police” which is responsible for keeping people out of post-death hell by forcing them to follow islamic methods, such as covering hair and body for women (hijab), brutally murdered a girl named Mahsa Amini. This is not the first time but it became public and pushed people past their tolerance level. They came to streets to show their anger about the police/government brutality and demanded freedom from oppression. The street protests were answered by nationwide internet shutdowns and mass arrests and killings. These are ongoing events and it’s escalating quickly. Note that Twitter, Facebook, Instagram has been filtered by Iranian government and many other tools such as Github, Slack, and Google Cloud services has been geoblocking Iranian IPs due to sanctions. It seems that Meta is also removing the related content from Facebook and Instagram due to their ToS!!

One of the international outcomes of these global protests has been the distinction of people of Iran from Iran’s government regarding sanctions which is massive imo. US treasury amended their ruling for “Internet Freedom for Iranians” and opening up communication technology to prevent further oppression.

It saddens me that I have not seen any (even vocal) support from any of the web3/crypto companies.

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Bumping this for visibility!

I would love to hear if there is any moves to rewrite the policy on how to deal with Grants supporting web3 education for Farsi speakers.

i see that I was quoted/tagged in this response @griff. with the transfer of Gitcoin/DAO assets to the Gitcoin Foundation [link], Gitcoin Holdings (now known as supermodular.xyz) does not have a say in this matter.

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Sorry for the auto alert! Mostly was just trying to bump

“If your project is not at risk of violating sanctions, then please educate us with supporting documentation.”

As there is new updates to the sanctions.

But you bring up even an even more important update! The US connection has greatly decreased recently! Maybe we can be more inclusive!

Can the DAO allow grants from anywhere, irrelevant of the fear that some overbearing nation state drums up?

Who are the people in the DAO is relevant to discuss these issues? Anyone know?
maybe @DisruptionJoe ?

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Thanks for calling this out :pray:

There is currently a live vote on what to do with Season 16. It looks as though the next open round will be held in January '23. This will be on the protocol.

What does this mean?

The protocol is a decentralized backend and set of smart contracts which can run a grants round end to end. Ideally, even if Gitcoin did not allow a grant, another org could fork the protocol, UI, and community.

In reality, the beta and alpha launches will still run the final calculations of a round in a centralized way. Additionally, the ability to censor grants, while not possible on the protocol, is an option on the UI. Therefore, Gitcoin and any other org hosting a UI, will be responsible for making the decision as to how much liability they own via control AND the limits of how much potential liability they are willing to accept.

Seeing how the next round won’t be until January, and the protocol transition work is mid-flight, I don’t think we will be able to answer this until more pieces of the protocol are set.

I’ll also tag @kyle @kevin.olsen and @nategosselin to the conversation.

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