The Uncensored Library is an awareness campaign to educate young people in oppressive countries about the dangers of press censorship and at the same time raise general awareness for the cause of Reporters without Borders (RSF). It excited millions of gamers in countries with censorship about press freedom and got them engaged in reading independent journalism. This unprecedented use of Minecraft made the news all over the world, far beyond “just” political media. Lifestyle and Gaming news sites made press freedom their topic. Resulting in a huge PR success for RSF and the NGO’s cause, with donations increasing significantly.
After the acclaimed “Uncensored Playlist”, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) wanted a new awareness campaign and overcome censorship. 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 lack access to independent journalism.
But RSF also wanted to create general awareness for their global fight against press censorship and raise donations. But also expand the NGO’s target group and reach younger people as well as people not yet highly involved into political journalism and press freedom.
Describe the creative idea (20% of vote)
How to overcome strong firewalls and at the same time excite young people to engage in the topic of 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 these countries that increasingly restrict the rights of their citizens, especially young people flee into games like Minecraft that still provide freedom in a virtual world. 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: The Uncensored Library.
A monument for press freedom impressive enough to get the gaming community engaged in the fight for free information. And for the first time ever, a game was transformed into a tool to overcome censorship.
Describe the PR strategy (30% of vote)
In order to reach young gamers in oppressive countries with no access to the mainstream media, RSF needed to activate the well-connected Minecraft community to spread the word inside the game. To catch their attention, it really needed a bold use of Minecraft combined with a fun and exciting gameplay experience. A social media campaign was directly targeting the Minecraft community and big gaming influencers, who are constantly on the lookout for exciting new topics to talk about.
One week before the launch: hundreds of press releases were sent to global media outlets to focus their attention on World Day Against Cyber Censorship. Targeting not only classic news media but lifestyle, tech and gaming sites, not known to cover press freedom topics (yet). With pictures, videos, a website and interviews, RSF documented the fascinating story of overcoming censorship for the first time ever with a game in a truly news-worthy
Describe the PR execution (20% of vote)
Censored articles from acclaimed journalists became uncensored Minecraft books, available in English and the language of their origin in the library. It took 12.5 million Lego-like blocks to build the enormous library inside the game and it uses Minecraft’s in-game resources in an unseen and innovative way. A giant monument for press freedom that has a jaw-dropping effect on gamers.
On World Day Against Cyber Censorship the library opened its doors inside Minecraft. Along with a whole social media campaign featuring Instagram and Facebook posts, YouTube videos, Reddit threads and tweets – all with the call to action to visit the library inside the game and share the news.
Readers who don’t play Minecraft (yet) were directed to the project’s microsite where they could find background information about the project, read uncensored articles, donate to RSF and access the library by an interactive walkthrough outside of Minecraft.
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 all target countries: Russia, Vietnam, Egypt, Mexico and Saudi Arabia). They spend countless hours inside the library reading books with independent journalism and the total play time is adding up to more than 17 years – and counting.
Big gaming influencers like CaptainSparklez, FitMC and Logdotzip spread the news and the community couldn’t stop talking about it. They uploaded more than 500 gameplay videos about the library on YouTube – 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 earned media reach 2.9B) – all with a media budget of €0. Resulting in a huge international PR success for RSF and massive general awareness for their cause within. People all over the world wanted to support press freedom and donations for RSF increased significantly by 62% (YOY), helping them to extend their global fight against press censorship. 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.
The library will stay open indefinitely, 3 more rooms have been added this year and more uncensored articles are being added to give young people back their human right to access information.