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The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) might not be the first agency that comes to mind when you think comic books. Yet, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), a branch of DHS, has been venturing into the world of graphic novels with its “Resilience Series,” aimed at combatting disinformation regarding elections and 5G technology’s link to COVID-19. 


Traditionally, DHS focuses on tangible threats like cybersecurity breaches and physical border security. However, the Resilience Series tackles a more nuanced challenge: disinformation.


The first installment, titled “Real Fake,” uses a fictional narrative to depict the tactics employed by foreign actors in manipulating online information, aligning with growing concerns about the spread of “fake news” and its potential to disrupt elections and sow societal discord.




The story revolves around Rachel and Andre, who discover a Russian command center manipulating online information to influence American voters during an election. The graphic novel highlights how “threat actors” (malicious actors like foreign governments) exploit social media and create synthetic media (manipulated videos or audio) to spread false narratives.


In the words of CISA:




Real Fake demonstrates how threat actors capitalize on political and social issues (especially around election cycles) to stealthily plant doubt in the minds of targeted audiences and steer their opinion.


Readers follow protagonists Rachel and Andre as they discover that a command center in Russia is using a network of troll farms to spread false narratives about elections to American voters. With the elections coming up, Rachel and Andre follow the trail of synthetic media and stop the cyber assailants from causing chaos, confusion, and division.



The second graphic novel, “Bug Bytes,” focuses specifically on the dangers of disinformation campaigns targeting critical infrastructure. The story follows Ava, a graduate student with a blend of coding and journalism skills. Ava uncovers a plot fueled by misinformation that aims to damage the USA’s 5G communication networks.




Bug Bytes tackles a particularly relevant issue. The COVID-19 pandemic saw a surge in conspiracy theories surrounding 5G technology, with some believing it spread the virus. This led to real-world consequences, with incidents of cellphone towers being vandalized. The graphic novel likely aims to educate readers on how misinformation can be used to manipulate public opinion and potentially endanger critical infrastructure.


The use of graphic novels is a strategic choice. This format allows CISA to present complex topics in a visually engaging and accessible way. Complicated narratives can be broken down with illustrations, while relatable characters can make the concepts more personal for readers. This approach is particularly apt for younger audiences, who are often more susceptible to online misinformation.


While the initiative is innovative, it has garnered some criticism. Some argue that the government shouldn’t be in the business of creating fictional narratives, particularly when it comes to sensitive topics like national security. There’s also a concern that these graphic novels could be seen as propaganda, promoting a specific viewpoint rather than fostering critical thinking skills.


Despite being little noticed, this series has drawn criticism from members of Congress, with Rep. Dan Bishop labeling the comics as “creepy” and accusing the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), the commissioner of the graphic novels, of using them to infringe on First Amendment rights.



Do you think citizen education should get the Marvel or DC treatment?



Image: Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency

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  • The title was changed to US government creates comic books to fight election disinformation

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