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What causes more mistrust: profile owners deleting user-generated content or website contributors masking their identities?

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People regularly rely on user-generated contributions to websites to inform their opinions about people, companies, organizations, and products. This study examines how two website affordances uniquely affect the evaluation of user-generated content. Specifically, an experiment was conducted that varied whether a website (a) affords profile owners the ability to delete user-generated contributions or (b) verifies the identity of users who post evaluations of profile owners. The results suggest that although deleting user-generated content is viewed as more problematic, both forms of information control independently affect how viewers evaluate a website and the content it hosts. The findings help establish the conditions under which certain forms of information control differentially produce uncertainty and mistrust and thus have direct implications for warranting theory.
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Keywords: Warranting theory; deception; impression management; online employee evaluations; online reviews; social media

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: School of Communication, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH, USA 2: Department of Communication, Wayne State University, Detroit, MI, USA 3: Amsterdam School of Communication Research, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, Netherlands

Publication date: August 3, 2018

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