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Graphic novel: Bug Bytes published to help people understand disinformation and state-led interference around Covid19 Vaccine and critical 5G infrastructure

  • Bug Bytes sheds light on how disinformation related to the Covid-19 Vaccine is spreading in society and what people can do to manage their exposure and limit the fall out
  • US government commissioned British creative agency Erly Stage Studios to create Bug Bytes
  • Graphic novels present a means to communicate with both adult and young-adult audiences (critical for Vaccine take up)

Sophisticated social media campaigns sponsored by bad state actors are responsible for creating and spreading disinformation around the critical Covid-19 Vaccine and emerging infrastructure such as 5G technology for communications. Erly Stage Studios has today published Bug Bytes, the digital graphic novel, which sheds a light on the disruptive forces at work. This book is the second instalment of the graphic novels that are a part of the Resilience Series commissioned by the US Cyber Infrastructure and Security Agency (CISA). 

Bug Bytes will inform and educate people on the dangers and risks associated with dis- and mis- information through fictional stories inspired by real-world events. In Bug Bytes, readers will meet the protagonist Ava Williams, a journalist and academic, patriot and member of Symous – a group fighting disinformation and foreign interference in elections as polling day approaches. Ava’s life gets tangled up in a web of lies as her father, a 5G technician gets hurt and she works to understand what a seemingly innocent poll online related to 5G technology has to do with the 5G Vaccine? Ava is surprised by the reaction of the anti-vaccination community at what is proven to be engineered data and has the unenviable task of making the case to the public at large for how they can be weary on data online with unproven provenance.

Farid Haque, founder and CEO of Erly Stage Studios commented:  “We’re delighted to have been commissioned by CISA to create a practical and engaging communication tool that highlights the existential threat of disinformation in the context of bad state actors. While the story is fictional many of the approaches shown are very much grounded in the reality of the technology we live with and are exposed to almost daily.”

Bug Bytes provides a unique education for the reader about the world of social media and how digital resources can be hijacked to serve a more nefarious agenda. The ability for foreign bad state actors to weld this kind of influence on another nation is unprecedented as is their ability to twist and manipulate a narrative to use domestic groups to do their bidding. The work helps the reader understand the need to exercise care when it comes to consuming news and information via social media platforms and online sources of information.

In the story, Ava Williams and a team of patriots are racing against the clock to shine a spotlight on the source of disinformation engineered to hurt critical communication infrastructure and damage the Vaccine roll-out efforts. Ava’s investigative journalism leads her through the metaverse to find allies and discovers through hard graft that foreign actors are tinkering with public data to maliciously mislead and influence perceptions of 5G as a communications technology and its fabricated link to vaccine effectiveness.

“Bug Bytes is the culmination of the wealth of experience that Clint Watts brings in cyber warfare and disinformation and our studio’s creative direction and storytelling style. We spent months researching the real life incidents and then wrapped them into a fictional story” added Farid Haque. 

The graphic novel is being made available by CISA to the general public online as a free resource as the Covid19 vaccine roll out continues to have an impact across the United States and the world at large. The work is available for free for the public and media to read at the following URL: https://www.cisa.gov/cfi-resilience-series-graphic-novels. A first title in the series was released a few months earlier last year ahead of the US elections titled Real Fakes. Watch this space and log back intohttps://publishing.erlystagestudios.com/ to learn more.

Contributing artists to Bug Bytes include: Jose Niño Galenzoga, Patricia Beja, Mona Shan and Joel Santiago. Lettering and layouts by Komal N. and Haroon M. Story by Clint Watts and Farid Haque, supported by the script writing team which includes Michael Gianfrancesco and Kabir Sabharwal. Edited by Tolly M. and Laila Khan. Special thanks to Randall Heather and Max Brooks.

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