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Virtual Minecraft Library offers refuge from censorship

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The wildly popular Minecraft, which lets communities collaborate to build virtual worlds out of digital building blocks, is now hosting a project that unblocks censored journalism.

Launched earlier this month, on the World Day Against Cyber Censorship on March 12th, the Uncensored Library is a Minecraft world built by Blockworks for the Reporters Without Borders Foundation.

Inside the virtual world, users can visit the massive, virtual, neoclassical library. This is home to real world texts banned in their country of origin — ranging from the work of murdered Saudi Arabian journalist Jamal Khashoggi, to articles from the Egyptian anti-corruption newspaper Mada Masr.

The digital home of press freedom

24 builders from 16 different countries took over 250 hours to construct the library, which sits on an island map named 'the digital home of press freedom.'

The neoclassical architectural style, which usually symbolizes "power and and culture" is used to "represent the power of press freedom rather than the authority of government regimes" according to Blockworks founder, former architecture student James Delaney.

Inside the building, five countries nearing the bottom of the Press Freedom Index—Russia, Egypt, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, and Vietnam—each have their own wing. When a player walks to the lectern at the centre, a selection of censored texts from that region flip up on the screen. Early reports say there are around 16 books at present, but more are expected to be uploaded as the project gains popularity.

Critics however, suggest enjoyment of the map is likely to be cut short as countries seek to ban Minecraft in retaliation, taking the right to play away from more apolitical users.

"These journalists know how oppressive these countries are, so why are they putting such a source of pleasure for young players on the chopping block?" commented an incensed redditor.

Censorship - where to draw the line?

Meanwhile in China, a journalist for the South China Morning Post claims to have resisted censorship using what might be a more permanent method.

Sarah Zheng has evaded the government's routine cleansing of social media by uploading an interview with coronavirus whistleblower Dr. Ai Fen to a place where it can't so easily be banned or deleted: the Ethereum blockchain.

And as all online platforms do their best to mitigate the flow of COVID-19 misinformation, some Twitter users claim to have been shadow-banned by the over-zealous algorithm.

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey said that Twitter is working hard to verify “public health experts” and outlined steps that Twitter users could do to help this process.



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Kieran Smith, Khareem Sudlow