How can one trick the government when it has a series of ridiculous, strict rules? For example, did you know that Brazilians have to pay up to 70% taxes just for owning a bike? Or that German ladies are forced to pay a luxury tax of 19% when buying tampons? These are just a bunch of absurd rules. Still, the citizens of these countries can beat the system. How, might you ask? By using all of their creativity. That’s the ace these people have up their sleeves: imagination.
To avoid these insanely high taxes, people came up with a series of ingenious ideas. Take the Brazilian’s strategy for example: Instead of actually buying a bike, Brazilians can get their hands on a nice piece of furniture and work on it so that they turn it into a cool, working bike. And as for tampons, the ladies in Germany have also found a way to overcome the system faults. Here, books are charged with only 7%. So, women decided to hide a pack of tampons in a book and sell it as…a book!
Speaking of books, there are plenty of countries that ban certain publications. Governments and religious groups don’t want us to get some new ideas about freedom. So, they simply forbid people to read such books. But books aren’t alone in this situation: There are magazines, newspapers, and even online articles that don’t see the light of day. And all, because there are states where the freedom of speech is considered to be just a silly concept.
Online press censorship is on the rise. Countries such as Egypt, Vietnam, Russia, Mexico, and Saudi Arabia are abusive in terms of internet freedom. That’s why they do whatever is in their power to restrict users’ access to different websites and social media platforms. Sure, they might have control over the infrastructure of the web, but you know what? There is a place online where such governments are powerless.
Enter the world of Minecraft, the world’s most successful computer game, with more than 145 million active players every month. Here, anything is allowed. Within this famous game, users are invited to virtually admire the Polish primeval forest, which is threatened with deforestation. If you are more passionate about history, then you can visit some of the historical buildings in the Middle East, which, in reality, have been destroyed by countless wars. And if you are a bookworm, you are more than welcome to visit the “Uncensored Library,” also hosted in the heart of the Minecraft game.
In fact, this virtual library marks Reporters Without Borders‘s latest campaign, which was launched just in time for World Day Against Cyber Censorship. The campaign is yet another of the NGO’s plans to try beating the government. Previously, they have attempted doing this by launching The Uncensored Playlist, an initiative created to help writers share their censored articles via music platforms such as Spotify, Apple Music, and Deezer. Another effort of theirs can be seen through Billboards Beyond Borders, which featured banned comments and quotes by the journalists, each displayed on digital panels visible via Google Street View.
The Uncensored Library is a concept imagined by creative agency DDB Berlin and digital production powerhouse MediaMonks, giving global access to independent information — even in countries rife with censorship. Basically, this is just a loophole the NGO found to fight press censorship. In countries where websites, blogs, and free press, in general, are strictly limited, Minecraft is still accessible to everyone. So why not use it to give readers/gamers access to high-quality information?
Tobias Natterer, Senior Copywriter DDB said in a press release: “The fascination of Minecraft is an open world, that gives you a feeling of unlimited freedom and the ability to create unimaginable things out of blocks. We used the creative possibilities of this game to bring censored articles back into oppressive countries.”
Robert-Jan Blonk, Interactive Producer, MediaMonks continues: “It has been incredible to be part of a project which overcomes press censorship in such an ingenious way. To use a video game to publish articles, and to overcome press censorship is a brilliant way to help address this issue among a younger audience. Some of the consequences they may not be as much aware of, as they might think.”
The articles of journalists from Mexico, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Vietnam, and Russia, who have been either banned, jailed, or exiled, are now available within Minecraft, carefully hidden from the government’s judging eyes. The books can be read by anyone who wants to improve their knowledge. Plus, Reporters Without Borders is inviting everyone to contribute with their own thoughts.
Even if they wanted to, the NGO couldn’t have found a better time to launch this campaign. Given the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, people are encouraged to read more in order to combat boredom. And, since many of us are either not allowed to leave the house unjustifiedly or encouraged to choose social distancing, reading online seems to be an excellent option. To help these people, UNESCO came up with this ingenious idea: It opened the gates of a global digital library. It is a gift the agency gave to every one of us. The library contains maps, texts, photos, recordings, and movies from different times, which are featured in seven different languages.
The library was well-received by readers (Ca. 30,000 Minecraft offline map downloads and around 35,000 Online sessions of players on the server) all over the world: there are around 200,000 website visitors and over 400,000 views for YouTube user-generated videos (more than 50 Videos). Plus, the story was covered by some of the most trustful media channels, like CNN, BBC, CNC, CNBC, FOX4, HuffPost, Der Spiegel, and many others. The library contains more than 200 books and, according to the agency, most of them have been read.
Most of the journalists included in the project come from restricted backgrounds. They are either living in exile or are not alive anymore. All journalists were asked for permission, and some, such as the case of Egypt, were published anonymously on their request. The NGO is very careful when it comes to protecting its sources, so there’s no need to worry that these journalists will be threatened by their respective governments.
Client: Reporters Without Borders
Agency: DDB Berlin