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Ask HN: Why Services like Facebook ads/stripe are closing Venezuelan accounts?
68 points by firekvz on Sept 1, 2019 | hide | past | favorite | 29 comments
Services like Facebook ads/stripe are wrongly closing Venezuelan accounts

Venezuelan users have been reporting that different services such as facebook/instagram ads [1], heroku services [2], stripe atlas [3], sedo [4], and others, have been blocking venezuelan users and terminating accounts due to sactions that they didn't even care to read, the sactions are pretty explicit at targeting only individuals and officials of the government [5] and there is even licences that allow these services to operate [6] and a faq [7] where this is explained

Even kayak.com (and all booking holdings sites) stopped accepting venezuela as a country of origin for flights, (see: https://i.imgur.com/nAouvUB.png) with a learn more link that goes to [5], and it makes no sense at all despite how much we need to buy plane tickets as people is fleeing the country.

So, what's the deal with these services closing their doors to 30million venezuelans when the sactions are targeting a defined list of individuals?


[1] https://twitter.com/search?q=facebook%20ads%20venezuela&src=typed_query&f=live

[2] https://twitter.com/gonzalezlrjesus/status/1167833470116225025

[3] https://stripe.com/docs/atlas

[4] https://www.sumarium.es/2019/08/06/empresa-alemana-sedo-suspende-todas-las-cuentas-de-venezolanos-por-las-sanciones/

[5] https://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/Programs/Pages/venezuela.aspx

[6] https://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/Programs/Documents/venezuela_gl25.pdf

[7] https://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/faqs/Sanctions/Pages/faq_other.aspx#venezuela

Because the upside of continuing to take money from Venezuela is outweighed by the risk that you miss someone specific, or accidentally sell to someone you're not supposed to.

Why would these companies, already in hot water federally, risk giving any more ammo to their naysayers?

In addition, in a “planned economy” like that of Venezuela, it may be quite hard to assess who works for the government and who doesn’t (and I suppose that in many cases the answer would be “it’s complicated” anyway).

Most capital, by far, in Vz is owned privately.

What economy is not planned? Why call that out with scare quotes?

I'm using quotes because it's an imprecise definition and some may disagree with it, thank you for proving my point

Right, and I was trying to ask where a possible line might be by asking about what is on the other side.

Centrally or publicly planned. E.g. by the Soviet or Chinese communist parties, or in this case the Venezuelan government.

Bingo. These companies don't make enough money off Venezuelans to warrant the risks of providing services there. Basically, it would be more expensive to implement intense enforcement, oversight, and KYC processes for Venezuela than the profit they would make.

I personally support raising awareness of the suffering of innocent Venezuelans and how tech companies are exacerbating that suffering. It would be interesting to see which employees of be tech companies will die on the hill of protecting talented, industrious Venezuelans using American web services to thrive in a very oppressive economy.

Conversely, when it's something abstract, like a machine learning research program that barely works or a search engine that doesn't exist yet and that nobody will use, people are ready to make careers out of talking to the press.

> how tech companies are exacerbating that suffering.

Can you expand a bit on how (say) Instagram ads are responsible for suffering in Venezuela?

Well as indicated in the comment if they are "using American web services to thrive in a very oppressive economy" and those services cut them off because they can't be bothered to discriminate then they are potentially harming those person's livelihoods.

So it's the lack of services that's causing suffering, not the services themselves? That makes more sense, but then your protests should be directed at the US government, which created the sanctions.

Agree, and the service providers are fairly supportive stakeholders. But is a small group of entrepreneurs in Venezeuala and tech companies going to change the administration's policy on Venezuela? I doubt it.

I'm not protesting, I was just providing exegesis

>a search engine that doesn't exist yet

If you want to stop something, it's easiest to stop it before it exists. Otherwise you have to overcome the status quo, which is hard.

It seems to me that it's pretty common for Facebook to be described as one of the most evil organizations in the world, or as totally useless, so when someone talks about access as a human right, I sort of lose the thread of why everybody hates them. I think I am incapable of hating any entity that cannot act in an acceptable manner as a matter of logic.

...very oppressive economy.

Citation requested. The problems of the Venezuelan economy are almost entirely due to sanctions.

I've posted this a few times so apologies for the length, but it's always fun to hear people push this lie.

Venezuela has experienced multiple severe food storages - even before the oil crisis ruined the spending spree (not that it stopped, Chavez just used loans instead) and well before this embargo by the US. During non-shortage times they enjoyed 1970s Russia style ration-like low variety, with half empty supermarkets

> In 2005, Chávez announced the initiation of Venezuela's own "great leap forward", following the example of Mao Zedong's Great Leap Forward.[32] An increase in shortages began to occur that year as 5% of items became unavailable according to the Central Bank of Venezuela.[33] In January 2008, 24.7% of goods were reported to be unavailable in Venezuela


> Since the 1990s, food production in Venezuela has dropped continuously, with Hugo Chávez's Bolivarian government beginning to rely upon imported food using the country's then-large oil profits.

(they have tons of farmland, the farmers were the ones who pushed the hardest for Chavez)

> Such currency controls have been determined to be the cause of shortages according to many economists and other experts [25][26][27]. However, the Venezuelan government blamed other entities such as the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)


Much of the policies targeting the rich to help the poor completely failed and everyone just got poorer:

> The Chávez government overspent in social spending, however, and did not save enough money for any future economic difficulties.[6] On 31 March 2000, Chávez initiated policies that resulted with the Venezuelan government spending more than it received as oil prices began to rise.[40] Poverty in Venezuela began increasing going into the 2010s.[41] During Chávez's campaign before the 2012 presidential election, he tripled Venezuela's deficit while on a "spending spree".[42] In 2014 El Universal reported that in the previous five years that included years under Chávez's policies, purchasing power for those with minimum wage jobs had dramatically decreased compared to other countries in the region, supposedly due to the high inflation rate and the multiple devaluations of Venezuela's currency. [authors comment: this being the consequences of mass debt and little value to replace it, clearly the west made them do it!].

The only country that goes on a massive spending spree for the poor and makes them poorer.


Their entirely centralized economic system has long been busting at the seems.

Besides from a few dictators almost no foreign investment comes in because they keep robbing the "evil capitalists" of their entire business, creating a byzantine system of price controls to keep things 'cheaper' (lol) and administrative controls at both the industry and company level:


Of course they've continuously blamed a grand western conspiracy for all of their problems since the early 2000s (a few yrs after the previous economic production kept things afloat temporarily, but after reality hit). But that's been the automatic excuse for a long list of other failed states like Nicaragua, Soviet Russia, etc so it's not surprising even when its 50% true. No one forced them to do disastrous price controls, scared away all of their smart people, and ruined every industry they centralized.

When you threaten to shoot people who cross a border to buy fruits and vegetables something is seriously wrong.

Keep in mind this a country that would otherwise be the richest per capita in the region had they followed traditional economic policies.

Nigeria will soon pass them in GDP per capita.If Maduro stays the future doesn't look bright: https://www.statista.com/graphic/1/371876/gross-domestic-pro...


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_proven_oi... (VZ is #1)

Finally: Iran (which has 80M people vs 31M in VZ) = $18,504/GDP per capita. Iraq = $5,165/per. Venezuela = $2k/GDP per capita. Oman, Bahrain, Kuwait, take your pick all have higher per capita GDP.

I wonder what they did differently....

The lack of replies or rebuttals to this is telling w.r.t the sanctions argument.

It's so long I fear I scared people away.

The only way to disprove the argument is to have evidence that the sanctions block access to machinery or services that Venezuela could not obtain elsewhere.

Which is improbable since both Iran and North Korea bypass sanctions to the extent they both have nuclear programs.

A quick Google search says that it has been expanded from specific individuals to a full economic embargo:

> Washington has slapped more than 100 current and former Venezuelan officials with sanctions in recent years and has severely restricted Venezuelan oil and gold exports. But Monday’s measures put the country on par with Cuba, Iran, Syria and North Korea as being economically isolated by the United States.

> The embargo carves out exceptions for food, clothing and other humanitarian aid being sent to Venezuela.


yes, to the "goverment of venezuela", not to civilians, also it has a license specific to avoid what is happening: https://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/Programs/...

the date of both documents is the same

My guess would be that the US companies are entirely unwilling to invest the effort required to implement fine grained blocking; faced with “lose Venezuelan customers” or “be charged with violating US sanctions”, they chose to IP blacklist the country.

Like all policies it must be viewed with a broad perspective as they rarely have an impact limited to the narrow scope of the law itself. Most people don't even try to engage that type of regulatory system so you never hear about the real consequences of most policies like that. Companies that give up before even trying are rarely going to be making much noise about the laws to get people to notice.

This is similar to the effects of "chilling speech" that speech restrictions or other indirect policies often generate, which often happens on a far larger scale than those who were actually stopped directly by the law itself. People who never even tried to engage with the new rules just choose not to say anything at all (ie avoiding the subjects or groups of people entirely instead of adapting or continuing to speak within the new framework).

This reminds me of the myth of "loopholes". Gosh we're not sure why these loopholes with which we've filled our laws usually benefit the firms who spend the most lobbying the government! Gosh we could never have predicted that this Byzantine sanctions scheme would hurt the average Venezuelan!

It prohibits "the exportation [...] to or involving the Government of Venezuela".

How would you check if a particular export somehow "involves" the Government of Venezuela?

Penalties for breach of sanctions have been draconian in recent years. Given such vague language I think these companies are simply not ready to take any risks.

to understand better American external business and political policies i highly recommend reading this book:


It will explain a lot of the events that are happening today and that already happened

> Why Services like Facebook ads/stripe are closing Venezuelan accounts?

Because Facebook's users are not its clients, but rather its raw material. In fact, one wonders if even minor advertisers aren't more important as sources of data than of revenue.

So, Facebook does not feel obligated to serve (if it can all be said to serve) the people of Venezuela.

> So, what's the deal with these services closing their doors to 30million venezuelans when the sactions are targeting a defined list of individuals?

Perhaps it's virtue signaling to US politicians and deep-state officials to indicate their loyalty.

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