Reporters Without Borders has built a virtual library in ‘Minecraft’ for sh

In countries where governments tightly control the media and ban hundreds of news sites, it can be difficult to access them. The New York Times or the BBC, but it is still possible to play Minecraft, a video game owned by Microsoft since 2014. For example, the non-profit association Reporters Without Borders created a backdoor in the game, creating a virtual library containing censored articles that any player can access.

In Saudi Arabia, for example, visitors to the Uncensored library—The winner of the education category at Fast Company’s 2021 World Changing Ideas Awards—can read reports from murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi which otherwise may be hard to find on the country’s internet. Library holdings also include articles by Javier Valdez, the Mexican journalist who covered crime and corruption until he was killed by gunmen, as well as stories by Nguyen Van Dai, a Vietnamese lawyer. human rights activist and democracy activist in exile whose blog is blocked at home. country.

[Image: Reporters Without Borders]

Reporters Without Borders worked with design agency DDB Germany and design studio BlockWorks, who spent three months building the collection from more than 12.5 million virtual blocks. “The whole library has a censorship-protected download link, so you can’t destroy it,” says Tobias Natterer, senior editor at DDB Berlin. “Anyone who downloads the library can then download it again. ” Minecraft protects player data, and the library’s servers are located in Europe, where EU law protects data against access by repressive regimes.

This year, the library added new virtual books with journalism from Brazil and Belarus to draw attention to the lack of press freedom in these countries. Some articles from Belarus come from Charter97, a website that has been blocked in the country since 2018. “Since the mass anti-government protests began in Belarus, the country’s president Alexander has been critical of the government or the situation in the country », Declared Anna Nelson, American executive director of Reporters Without Borders. “Hundreds of journalists who covered the protests were temporarily detained, while some were sentenced to several years in prison. “

Because Minecraft players can be as young as 7 years old, the project is a way for Reporters Without Borders to engage a new generation on the issue of press freedom. “Very quickly, game users come to understand that in the real world there are very real consequences when information is censored or journalists are denied access to the truth,” Nelson explains. Since its launch in March 2020, the project has reached more than 20 million players from 165 countries.

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