The Uncensored Library is the latest project of Reporters Without Borders (RSF). The Minecraft server contains articles that are censored by local governments in an attempt to bypass censorship and to put a spotlight on press freedom. Sandro Heierli, art director at DDB Berlin, was explains how they got to the idea.
“A year ago we already did a campaign under the hastag #TruthFindsAWay were we tried to bypass censorship trough streaming services like Spotify. This year we wanted to push that idea even further in another media. When we found out that young people were not getting correct information from their governments we wanted to find something that targets that audience. That’s when we came up with the idea of using video games.”
As the coronavirus continues to spread worldwide, so does censorship of vital information about the pandemic. We have therefore added a new wing to the Uncensored Library, containing information on 10 countries with deliberate state censorship of the crisis. #truthfindsaway pic.twitter.com/vMagQXY9ZB
— blockworks (@BlockWorksYT) April 9, 2020
“At first we wanted to do something in GTA, Fortnite or something like that but we couldn’t figure out how to bring these articles to the games because we need to work together with all those game manufacturers. Many of them also weren’t interested because it would make their games political and could impact their sales. So we needed to find a way around these big companies, and then we came across Minecraft which is still available in all countries and gives you have a lot of freedom with what you can do with it without censorship. When we found out you can also write books in the game we quickly came to the idea of building a digital library for press freedom.”
To build the massive library Heierli hired Blockworks, a group of professional Minecraft builders, to help in its construction.
“It was interesting to work with them because none of our team members had any experience with Minecraft. We knew it was one of the most successful games, but didn’t know what you could do in it. James Delaney, the founder of Blockworks, is also an architect so it was good to have someone on our side come up with nice ideas and proposals on how a building should work and be designed.”
“One important point was to make something that the community likes and is exited to explore. We could have made it easier to read by building one room and putting all the books in there, but that’s not how this community and the game works. This is why we opted for a museum experience.”
“We had a lot of positive reactions from the community. It was really nice to see how people in the chat were discussing press freedom, the opium crisis, the meaning of freedom of speech and so on. Every day we see new YouTube videos pop up were people experience it and talk to their followers. Currently we have more than 90.000 visitors and 100.000 map downloads from the website so even if it gets shut down or censored at one point it’s still out there.”
Future of the library
“We’re constantly looking at new articles and looking at things we can put in. Recently we added a room on censorship of COVID-19 by governments. We are planning of expanding the with some new countries, but to give every country its own room would be to crazy. At one point you need stop it, it’s a lot of work and everyone is working for free on it.”
Text & photo: Steve Wouters