Stafford Beer Medal

This award is named in memory of Stafford Beer, a world leader in the development of systems ideas, especially management cybernetics, and President of The OR Society 1970-71.

The Stafford Beer Medal is awarded in recognition of the most outstanding contribution to the philosophy, theory or practice of Information Systems published in the European Journal of Information Systems (EJIS) within the relevant year.

Stafford Beer

Stafford Beer

Citation for Stafford Beer Medal 2020

Bjoern Ross, Laura Pilz, Benjamin Cabrera, Florian Brachten, German Neubaum and Stefan Stieglitz

Are social bots a real threat? An agent-based model of the spiral of silence to analyse the impact of manipulative actors in social networks

European Journal of Information Systems, 28 (4): 394-412

This year’s medal is awarded to Bjoern Ross, Laura Pilz, Benjamin Cabrera, Florian Brachten, German Neubaum, and Stefan Stieglitz, all of whom were based in Germany when the paper was submitted (Bjoern Ross has since moved to the University of Edinburgh). 

There are growing worries that malicious actors might spread misinformation online to manipulate the public by using automated bots. Research has already found evidence of social bots being used in regard to voting for the US presidential election and the outcome of the “Brexit” referendum in 2016 on membership of the United Kingdom in the European Union. This study considers the role of social bots in influencing public opinion expressed on social media and thereby addresses a highly significant and important issue for global society. The paper has theoretical novelty by introducing the spiral of silence theory to the information systems domain. The paper uses agent-based modelling to investigate the possible influence of social bots on public opinion. The study reveals that it only takes 2–4% of human-like social bots to sway the opinion climate in two out of three cases. The judges particularly liked the contemporary real-world focus on a critically important social issue, the use of novel theory to address the research problem, and the breakthrough insights regarding the power of social bots in shaping public opinion.

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