To celebrate March 12's World Day Against Cyber Censorship, a fancy new library has opened on the block in Minecraft. It's called The Uncensored Library, and it's not just an elaborate sculpture made for a coffee table book. The Uncensored Library is a genuine virtual library inside Minecraft built to house journalism from countries where complete press freedoms don't exist or selective censorship denies access to certain articles. The trick? Minecraft isn't blocked in the same countries.
It's a fascinating loophole. Just pop into the game, load up The Uncensored Library server, and pore through a bunch of books housing republished articles blocked from social media and news outlets in five countries.
Each country has its own room in the library, dressed up with sculptures and statuary that speak to each country's specific censorship campaigns. Mexico's wing wraps rows of books around a small cemetery at its center. Gravestones depict independent journalists murdered for covering sensitive political stories or investigating organized crime rings, like drug cartels. Saudi Arabia doesn't allow independent journalism, so its wing features a singular cage at the center, symbolizing the journalists arrested and likely tortured for government criticism.
It's not the coziest library, and necessarily so.
The project comes from Reporters Without Borders, a group dedicated to ensuring proper press freedoms globally, and BlockWorks, a collective of artists and designers that made a business out of creating elaborate scenes in Minecraft.
To browse the library yourself, you'll need version 1.14.4 of the Java edition of Minecraft. Once installed, just open the multiplayer menu and enter "visit.uncensoredlibrary.com as the server IP. You can also just download a copy of the library to host locally or explore on your lonesome.
Minecraft's biggest audience is also the project's primary target, according to the website. "Young people, in particular, are forced to grow up in systems where their opinion is heavily manipulated by governmental disinformation campaigns," it reads.
Even if 14-year-old Minecraft YouTubers aren't particularly interested in doing any reading or propping up important activism (I only cared about skateboarding and hamburgers at 14, so), some good ideas might get planted as a result. Besides, keeping the good journalism flowing can only be a good thing, except for the oppressive leadership vying for absolute control of their messaging, of course.
My only big concern: nothing says whether The Uncensored Library will be an on-going project or exists as more of a static statement, but I've emailed PR for clarification.