Reporters Without Borders, the international non-profit organisation established to promote free access to information, has partnered with studio BlockWorks to create a virtual library in Minecraft that contains works censored by oppressive regimes around the globe – the goal being to bypass local restrictions on accessing banned material.
BlockWorks was previously responsible for the Minecraft’s official tenth anniversary virtual museum, and its efforts on the new Uncensored Library are equally breathtaking. Created as a collaboration between 24 builders from 16 countries, it’s a sprawling palatial affair, designed in the neoclassical architectural style, that looms large among elaborately landscaped gardens atop steep cliffs in the midst of an endless ocean.
Despite its grandiose appearance, though, the true focus is on the works it holds. Dedicated to the “freedom of the press, and exposing press censorship”, the virtual library, which is hosted on an open server, contains journals and articles that were censored in their country of origin – Egypt, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Vietnam – and written by journalists who’ve been banned, jailed, exiled, even killed.
“Such censorship lets many young people grow up in systems with almost no access to independent press,” explains Reporters Without Borders in its lengthy announcement post, “Their opinions become heavily manipulated by governmental disinformation campaigns. But although the youth in those countries differ from ours, they do what young people all around the globe do: play video games.”
The goal of the Uncensored Library, then, is to create a “loophole to overcome censorship by building a safe haven for press freedom”, giving visitors access to works that might otherwise be unavailable to them. As the organisation puts it, “In these countries, where websites, blogs and free press in general are strictly limited, Minecraft is still accessible by everyone”.
“These articles are now available again within Minecraft hidden from government surveillance technology inside a computer game,” it continues, “The books can be read by everyone on the server, but their content cannot be changed. The library is growing, with more and more books being added to overcome censorship”.
Those wishing to tour the Uncensored Library can do so by visiting the server “visit.uncensoredlibrary.com” from inside Minecraft, and the full map is also available to download and experience offline via the Uncensored Library website.