Today is World Day Against Cyber Censorship. Launched by Reporters Without Borders in 2008, its goal is to raise awareness of how various governments around the world are censoring free speech online, whether it’s by blocking keywords on social media, removing individual articles and blogs, or in extreme cases, jailing and executing those individuals. With the WHO officially declaring the spread of COVID-19 a pandemic, perhaps now is more important than ever to fight against government censorship—and one of the ways to do that is with Minecraft.
Spearheaded by Reporters Without Borders and built by BlockWorks and DDB Berlin, The Uncensored Library is a place you can visit within Minecraft to read the works of censored journalists from Russia, Mexico, Egypt, Vietnam, and Saudi Arabia. Unlike news websites or personal blogs, Minecraft is still accessible in countries that tightly control what is reported about their governments, and Reporters Without Borders is now using this loophole to bypass internet censorship.
“Their forbidden articles were republished in books within Minecraft, giving readers the chance to inform themselves about the real political situation in their countries and learn the importance of press freedom,” says The Uncensored Library on its website.
There are two ways to access the library:
For Windows 10, download the map from The Uncensored Library website, extract the file, and save it into your .minecraft folder under AppData/Roaming. Then connect to The Uncensored Library’s own Minecraft server. For MacOS, you’ll find the folder in /Library/Application Support/minecraft/saves.
There are a few caveats to those methods, though. If you’re trying to download and install the map from your own computer, it will only work on the Java version of Minecraft, not Windows 10. (Could be the same case with the Mac version.) If you are trying to access the server, it will only work with Minecraft version 1.14.4, but you can easily roll back the version within the Minecraft launcher under ‘Installations.’ While the library is incredible to look at on its own, it’s more lively with other people walking around, reading the same materials.
The library itself is divided into six sections, five of which contain the works of censored journalists, and one for Reporters Without Borders. At the main entrance to each section (sans the RWB one) there’s a pedestal with a book on it that contains information about the current state of government censorship within that country, and lists what number it ranks on the World Press Freedom Index. (You can also find the same information on the website.)
The virtual archive also goes into detail about the journalists featured in each section, and the architecture and what it represents. Vietnam’s large labyrinth leading to the censored material, for example, represents how difficult the Vietnamese government makes it for citizens to easily access information. Don’t be fooled by the endless rows of books; those are there for show. Instead, the most important texts, the journalists’ work, are at the centre of the rooms. Those are the materials you can read.
This project was only just released today, so it’s unclear if other censored journalists’ work will end up in the Minecraft Library in the future, but at least it’s there—and an ingenious way to circumvent internet censors to make your voice heard. Add this to the already endless list of things you can do with Minecraft.