As Captain America was to fascism in the 1940s and X-Men were to racism in the 1960s, a new band of comic-book heroes is taking on digital human rights and privacy in the 21st century.

The Metaiye Knights characters are activists who are fighting to stop a cabal of data-sucking vampires called Fang — an intentional reference to the commonly used acronym for tech giants Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix, and Google — from developing a sinister artificial intelligence. 

The project was created by Metai Knights Media, the creative arm of a nonprofit focused on extending human rights into cyberspace. The organization asserts that comic books have a long history of tackling social issues and that digital rights deserve their own fictional champions. 

“I know that might sound dramatic to compare privacy and digital rights with racism and fascism, but we believe the damage that the surveillance economy is doing to society is comparable to what the carbon economy is doing to the environment," CEO Dela Atanda told Cheddar. 

The challenge is that people don’t feel the same sense of urgency over losing their freedom or privacy online, he added. The comic offers a simple parable on the dangers of handing over our privacy rights to digital platforms and the tech giants that own them. 

"What we're really aiming to do with metaKnyts is talk to young people specifically and get them interested in the cause in a way they can understand and relate to and then demand better digital rights and a better digital economy that is more inclusive,” Atanda said. 

This philosophy extends to how people will actually get their hands on the comic. 

The series will be distributed on blockchain in the form of fungible tokens (NFTs) to ensure that each issue cannot be forged or replicated. “We don’t actually own any of our media, whether it’s music, comics, gaming assets, etc. They’re all locked within these platforms,” Atanda claimed. “Crypto allows us to create a framework where people can actually own these assets independently of a platform.”

Metai Knights Media is partnering with Comic Republic, a Nigerian comic production company known for its focus on representation, to produce metaKnyts for a wide audience. 

Behind the scenes advising on the project are Brittany Kaiser, Cambridge Analytica whistleblower and co-founder of the Digital Asset Trade Association; Karen Hunter, Sirius XM executive and Pulitzer Prize winner; and David Chaum, the forefather of cryptography.

One broader goal for Metai is flipping the script on how people think about digital rights. Atanda argues that people are inherently social and want to share online, but right now they feel exploited. More privacy, he said, could lead to more convenience.  

“If you know that information is not going to be used in a way to exploit you, then the chances are you will share more,” Atanda saPanel

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