How a huge Minecraft library is fighting global censorship

The Uncensored Library is an enormous Minecraft build that’s allowing people from across the globe to safely access banned articles

The project is a collaboration between Reporters Without Borders, DDB, MediaMonks and Minecraft design specialists BlockWorks. Any Minecraft player can enter the library, and browse from a selection of censored journalism – reproduced as ‘books’ – even if the content would usually be banned in their own country.

It took 18 builders from 12 countries three months to finish the library, which takes the form of a grand neo-classical structure. “We wrestled a lot with the style and what kind of message we were trying to convey,” explains BlockWorks Managing Director James Delaney. “We chose this style because a lot of government and public buildings are built in this way, and it’s deliberately done to look official and powerful. It’s a style that’s associated with knowledge, so we wanted to turn that on its head by not having the building represent the power and authority of a government or a regime, but the freedom of the press.”

Even for Minecraft standards, it’s a huge build, featuring 12.5 million blocks. If the structure was reproduced in real life, it would boast the largest dome in the world. In order to get it built, BlockWorks had to coordinate the efforts of people in several different timezones, all working on the library. Specific elements such as statues, flags and gardens were handed over to specialist builders.

The library’s central space is decked out in the flags of countries from around the world as well as a giant floor map that shows where nations stand on the World Press Freedom Index. Players can open up individual country books to find out more about their relationship with censorship.

In country-specific rooms, users can delve into banned stories by journalists that have been jailed, exiled, or even killed for their work. These also contain huge sculptures that represent the country – for example a massive octopus, which Delaney describes as depicting the “long-reaching arm of Russia”.

Although the space is designed to educate people about their own countries, Delaney says it’s still intended to appeal to the average Minecraft player, giving them plenty of space to explore. BlockWorks has also left enough room for more parts of the library to be added in the future, and there are plans to continue introducing new censored content into the building.;;;;