Reaching young people in oppressive countries suffering under online censorship and get them excited about press freedom is extremely difficult. To achieve this, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) used Minecraft in an innovative way to bypass censorship and directly target young gamers in these countries and get them engaged in reading independent journalism inside the game. The project came along with a social media campaign that activated the well-connected international gaming community to spread the news inside the game and turned gamers all over the world into press freedom activists.
After the acclaimed “Uncensored Playlist”, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) wanted a new campaign to overcome censorship and get people excited about press freedom. The target was to reach millions of young people who grow up in oppressive countries under strict online censorship. They are especially vulnerable to disinformation by authoritarian governments and have no access to independent journalism.
But it was also important to raise general awareness for the cause of RSF and their global fight against press censorship. In order to raise donations, RSF needed to win over people around the world and convince them about the importance of press freedom so they would support the cause.
Describe the creative idea (30% of vote)
How to overcome strong firewalls and at the same time get young people excited about press freedom? By bringing it to their world: Minecraft.
Because even in countries where almost all media is blocked – Minecraft, one of the world’s biggest computer games, with more than 126 million active players per month, is easily accessible. In oppressive countries that increasingly restrict the rights of their citizens, especially young people tend to flee into games such as Minecraft that still provide freedom in virtual worlds. And Minecraft has books that can be freely written and read inside the game.
RSF used this loophole to build a huge digital library in Minecraft to fill it with independent journalism: The Uncensored Library.
And for the first time ever, a game became a tool to overcome censorship and bring the truth back to young people in oppressive countries.
Describe the strategy (20% of vote)
The countries featured in the library were picked by comparing RSF’s “World Press Freedom Index” with Google data (Minecraft interest by country). Accordingly, journalists from countries with poor press freedom rating but high Minecraft interest were chosen by RSF and their censored work got republished in Minecraft books.
The target was to reach young gamers (15–30 years), especially in countries with online censorship to get them engaged with independent journalism. To achieve this the well-connected gaming community needed to be activated to spread the word inside the game. In order to do so, the library was launched together with an awareness campaign including social media posts, YouTube videos, reddit threads and a website – all with the call to action to share the news.
Describe the execution (20% of vote)
Censored articles from acclaimed independent journalists from oppressive countries became uncensored “Minecraft books”, available in English and their original language inside the library. About 12.5 million Lego-like blocks were used to build an impressive and fun gameplay experience that would excite even experienced Minecraft players.
On World Day Against Cyber Censorship, the library opened its doors in Minecraft. Along with a website, allowing visitors to enter the library by an interactive walkthrough outside the game. On the website the library map could be downloaded “censorship-protected” by blockchain technology. Every download map can be hosted inside the game again – allowing the library to multiply fast and making it impossible to censor. (+300K downloads and counting)
The Uncensored Library will stay open indefinitely and in 2021 three more countries were added.
List the results (30% of vote)
The Uncensored Library reached more than 25 million gamers from 165 countries, many of them suffering under censorship (including Russia, Vietnam, Egypt, Mexico and Saudi Arabia). They spent countless hours inside the library reading books with independent journalism, the total playtime added up to more than 17 years.
Big gaming influencers like CaptainSparklez talked about it and the community created more than 500 YouTube videos about the project – and what governments tried to hide suddenly was a trending topic.
But the library went beyond the game: resulting in more than 860 news articles (total media reach 2.9B) – all with a media budget of €0. Donations for RSF increased significantly by 62% (YOY), helping them to extend their global fight for press freedom. The library even became a teaching tool in many schools and universities and the Design Museum in London made it a permanent part of their exhibition.