(TMU) — The potential of gaming platforms as revolutionary comms has been pondered for decades.
In his young adult novel Little Brother, author Cory Doctorow imagined teenagers using their video game systems to connect to an encrypted network to evade draconian government agencies in the wake of a terror attack and in For The Win, Doctorow explored the virtual economy of MMORPGs and their potential as an organizing mechanism against corrupt state power.
Enter one of the more interesting real-life examples of a video game platform being repurposed to fight fascist state censorship. Reporters Without Borders has tapped Minecraft to develop its new project The Uncensored Library, which is a virtual hub where users can access censored journalism from around the world.
Developed as a synergistic effort by the German branch of Reporters Without Borders, the German marketing agency DDB, and the UK design company Blockworks, The Uncensored Library is not a gamification of press freedoms but rather part of a series of projects based on using alternative platforms and collaborative 3D design to fight censorship.
Reporters Without Borders specifically sought out a company that could leverage the global engagement of Minecraft, which is so ubiquitous that it would be virtually impossible for a nation’s government to shut its servers down. DDB senior creative Tobi Natterer found in his research that countries with particularly draconian press censorship—Russia, Egypt, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Vietnam, etc.—have extremely active gaming communities. Minecraft is the largest of those communities and it happens to allow gamers to write books in-game.
“Inside [those books],” explained senior interactive producer Robert-Jan Blonk, who worked on the library, “you can find articles and information about the journalists that are being censored in their own countries. We share these stories through the books that live in that library, and people can just openly read them, because even in the countries… where these journalists are from, you’re able to play Minecraft.”
The Uncensored Library features special sections for certain countries like Egypt, where there are virtually no press freedoms. The library features articles from Egypt that you simply can not find anywhere else except inside the Minecraft server. In Mexico, where journalists and dissidents face routine assassination from both the government and cartels, there is widespread self-censorship that is based on fear.
“In the Mexico room we built memorials to 12 Mexican journalists who have been murdered,” said James Delaney, managing director at Blockworks. “Because of the explicit danger to journalists in Mexico, there are a lot of issues they won’t talk about because it’s too dangerous.”
The game includes a pedestal for the work of murdered journalist Javier Valdez Cárdenas.
Behind the library’s neo-classically iconic statue of a fist holding a pen and museum-like wings of book collections, there is a world map inscribing Reporters Without Borders’ Press Freedom Index, which ranks 180 countries based on their press censorship. The rankings factor in everything from executed journalists to the online censorship of articles, algorithmic censorship of keywords and even blocking VPNs, such as in China and Russia.
The Uncensored Library is getting plenty of attention in countries that do not blatantly censor the press, of course. The map has clocked 23,000 downloads globally and the official server has drawn 17,000 unique visitors.
For platform-specific info on how to access the library, Gizmodo offers a breakdown.
For a virtual tour of the Uncensored Library, check out the video below:
Dolphin Swims Through Louisiana Neighborhood in Aftermath of Hurricane Ida
A Louisiana family was shocked to find a dolphin swimming through their neighborhood in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida.
Amanda Huling and her family were assessing the damage to their neighborhood in Slidell, Louisiana, when they noticed the dolphin swimming through the inundated suburban landscape.
In video shot by Huling, the marine mammal’s dorsal fin can be seen emerging from the water.
“The dolphin was still there as of last night but I am in contact with an organization who is going to be rescuing it within the next few days if it is still there,” Huling told FOX 35.
Ida slammed into the coast of Louisiana this past weekend. The Category 4 hurricane ravaged the power grid of the region, plunging residents of New Orleans and upwards of 1 million homes and businesses in Louisiana and Mississippi into the dark for an indefinite period of time.
Officials have warned that the damage has been so extensive that it could take weeks to repair the power grid, reports Associated Press.
Also in Slidell, a 71-year-old man was attacked by an alligator over the weekend while he was in his flooded shed. The man went missing and is assumed dead, reports WDSU.
Internet users began growing weary last year about the steady stream of stories belonging to a “nature is healing” genre, as people stayed indoors and stories emerged about animals taking back their environs be it in the sea or in our suburbs.
However, these latest events are the surreal realities of a world in which extreme weather events are fast becoming the new normal – disrupting our lives in sometimes predictable, and occasionally shocking and surreal, ways.
Mom in LA Suburbs Fights Off Mountain Lion With Bare Hands, Rescues 5-Year-Old Son
A mother in Southern California is being hailed as a hero after rescuing her five-year-old son from an attacking mountain lion.
The little boy was playing outside his home in Calabasas, a city lying west of Los Angeles in the Santa Monica Mountains, when the large cat pounced on him.
The 65-pound (30 kg) mountain lion dragged the boy about 45 yards across the front lawn before the mother acted fast, running out and striking the creature with her bare hands and forcing it to free her son.
“The true hero of this story is his mom because she absolutely saved her son’s life,” California Department of Fish and Wildlife spokesman Captain Patrick Foy told Associated Press on Saturday.
“She ran out of the house and started punching and striking the mountain lion with her bare hands and got him off her son,” Foy added.
The boy sustained significant injuries to his head, neck and upper torso, but is now in stable condition at a hospital in Los Angeles, according to authorities.
The mountain lion was later located and killed by an officer with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, who found the big cat crouching in the bushes with its “ears back and hissing” at the officer shortly after he arrived at the property.
“Due to its behavior and proximity to the attack, the warden believed it was likely the attacking lion and to protect public safety shot and killed it on sight,” the wildlife department noted in its statement.
The mountain lion attack is the first such attack on a human in Los Angeles County since 1995, according to Fish and Wildlife.
The Santa Monica Mountains is a biodiverse region teeming with wildlife such as large raptors, mountain lions, bears, coyote, deer, lizards, and snakes. However, their numbers have rapidly faded in recent years, causing local wildlife authorities to find new ways to manage the region’s endemic species.
Video Shows Taliban Taking Joyride in Captured US Blackhawk Helicopter
The rapid fall of Kabul to the Taliban has resulted in a number of surreal sights – from footage of the Islamist group’s fighters exercising at a presidential gym to clips of combatants having a great time on bumper cars at the local fun park.
However, a new video of Taliban members seemingly testing their skills in the cockpit of a commandeered UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter shows the chilling extent to which U.S. wares have fallen into the hands of a group it spent trillions of dollars, and exhaustive resources, to stamp out.
In the new video, shared on Twitter, the front-line utility helicopter can be seen taxiing on the ground at Kandahar Airport in southeastern Afghanistan, moving along the tarmac. It is unclear who exactly was sitting in the cockpit, and the Black Hawk cannot be seen taking off or flying.
It is unlikely that the Taliban have any combatants who are sufficiently trained to fly a UH-60 Black Hawk.
The helicopter, which carries a $6 million price tag, is just a small part of the massive haul that fell into the militant group’s hands after the country’s central government seemingly evaporated on Aug. 14 amid the withdrawal of U.S. and coalition troops.
Some 200,000 firearms, 20,000 Humvees and hundreds of aircraft financed by Washington for the now-defunct Afghan Army are believed to be in the possession of the Taliban.
The firearms include M24 sniper rifles, M18 assault weapons, anti-tank missiles, automatic grenade launchers, rocket-propelled grenades and mortars.
Taliban fighters in the elite Badri 313 Brigade have been seen in propaganda images showing off in uniforms and wielding weaponry meant for the special forces units of the Afghan Army.
The U.S. is known to have purchased 42,000 light tactical vehicles, 9,000 medium tactical vehicles and over 22,000 Humvees between 2003 and 2016.
The White House remains unclear on how much weaponry has fallen into Taliban hands, with National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan admitting last week that the U.S. lacks a “clear picture of just how much missing $83 billion of military inventory” the group has.