'Minecraft' library helps you dodge news media censorship

Jon Fingas
Associate Editor
DDB Berlin/BlockWorks/MediaMonks

There are numerous ways to evade censorship of the press, but it's getting increasingly difficult when countries like China and Russia are cracking down on VPNs and similar tools. Reporters Without Borders thinks it has the answer to those mounting obstacles: make the news available in a game that's rarely blocked. The team has worked with BlockWorks and MediaMonks on the Uncensored Library, a Minecraft map that includes articles from journalists and sites whose work is frequently censored for its unflattering truths. You'll find articles from murdered Saudi Arabian journalist Jamal Khashoggi (whose fiancée Hatice Cengiz supports the project), the activist-friendly Russian site Grani.ru and the Egyptian anti-corruption outlet Mada Masr, among others.

You can also see details for the current state of press freedom in 180 countries.

The library is a technical achievement in its own right. It resembles a giant neo-classical museum, complete with country-specific wings and huge book collections. You can't tear the library apart, but you can add more if you have the time and inclination.

Reporters Without Borders believes the Uncensored Library should be relatively resilient. Anyone can download the necessary map, and Minecraft's nature makes it easy to host another server if an oppressive country tries to take one down. We wouldn't count on this lasting forever, mind you. Countries that already have draconian censorship measures aren't likely to think twice about banning Minecraft outright -- this may be just a temporary reprieve.

Still, that's not entirely the point. This is also a commentary on censorship, and a way to engage people who otherwise wouldn't think much about such a difficult subject. If it encourages some Minecraft players to advocate for press freedom or pursue investigative reporting as a career, it will have accomplished its mission.