Does identity disclosure help or hurt user content generation? Social presence, inhibition, and displacement effects

Jingchuan Pu, Yuan Chen, Liangfei Qiu, Hsing Kenneth Cheng

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


Many user-generated content 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 that the content volume increases and content effort exerted on each content decreases overall. 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 that this benefit comes at the cost of reducing users’ effort per content in the neighbor section.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)297-322
Number of pages26
JournalInformation Systems Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Management Information Systems
  • Information Systems
  • Computer Networks and Communications
  • Information Systems and Management
  • Library and Information Sciences


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