“Does Identity Disclosure Help or Hurt User Content Generation? Social Presence, Inhibition, and Displacement Effects” by Professor Hsing Kenneth Cheng
Professor Hsing Kenneth Cheng
John B. Higdon Eminent Scholar Chair
Department of Information Systems and Operations Management
University of Florida
Many user-generated content (UGC) websites are experimenting with disclosing users’ identities to increase accountability for the generated content. However, the effects of identity disclosure on users’ content-generation behaviors are not well examined. In this study, we address this critical issue by using a natural experiment – a large corporate online community chose to disclose users’ identities in one section (the focal section) but not the other (the neighbor section). Our results show that in the focal section, disclosing identity increases social presence and inhibits users’ willingness to generate content, resulting in greater effort spent per content but smaller content volume. Surprisingly, we find that users significantly change their content-generation behaviors in the neighbor section, where users remain anonymous. Specifically, identity disclosure has a strong displacement effect: the low-effort content, which is deterred by identity disclosure in the focal section, will be reallocated to the anonymous neighbor section. Furthermore, taking both sections together, we find the content effort exerted on each content decreases overall, implying that the displacement effect of identity disclosure is even stronger than its direct effect. These findings demonstrate that identity disclosure is a double-edged sword with regard to user content generation. On the one hand, disclosure motivates users’ effort on each content in the focal section. On the other hand, the displacement effect meant this benefit comes at the cost of reducing users’ effort per content in the neighbor section.